Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Targets Feral Cats

“The Barnett Access on the Little Red River is being overrun with feral cats,” reported last Tuesday’s edition of The Sun-Times, the local paper in Heber Springs, Arkansas. “Due to the interaction between the public and feral cats, and the risk to human health, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is going to begin a trapping effort in July to remove the cats.” [1]

Interaction between the public and feral cats?

Huh. The feral cats I’m familiar with don’t really interact with the public. They’re… you know, feral.

What’s going on here?

“Tom Bly, fisheries biologist with the AGFC said that feral cats are considered an invasive species by conservation agencies and organizations nationwide. ‘Cats are the most significant invasive species affecting native bird populations and are also estimated to kill twice as many mammals as birds. There are also numerous human health concerns associated with feral cat colonies. Through feces, fleas, bites, or scratches cats can pass a variety of parasitic, bacterial and viral illnesses including rabies, toxoplasmosis, hook worms, and typhus,’ Bly said.” [1]

Sounds like Bly’s been drinking TNR opponents’ Kool-Aid.

As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, the claims linking predation by cats to declining bird numbers are largely (other than on oceanic islands) unsupported by the evidence. [2–4]

The evidence is no better for the public health threats Bly refers to. Rabies surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, indicate that there has been no rabies case associated with cats during the period 2007–2010 (for which I had reports handy) and, indeed, very few cases overall. [5–8]

If Bly and AGFC are truly concerned about toxoplasmosis, they should be encouraging the public to adopt a vegetarian diet and more diligent hand-washing practices. And the hookworms and typhus? A quick search of the state’s newspapers going back to 1999 reveals no hookworm stories related to cats (the few that were found involve dogs) and no typhus stories at all.

All of which raises serious questions about Bly’s expertise on the matter, and the motivation behind the roundup of feral cats at the Barnett Access.

Oh, and the resources being allocated to the project. Exercises in futility tend to be both time-consuming and costly. Nineteen years to eradicate the 2,200 or so cats from Marion Island, for example, using some of the cruelest methods available. [9] On Ascension Island, the cost was about $1,732/cat. [10] Something tells me that AGFC’s planning for this is no better than its rationale.

I e-mailed the AGFC through its online contact form Tuesday afternoon, asking that somebody address these issues. Stay tuned.

Thanks to Louise Holton (Alley Cat Rescue) and Merritt Clifton (Animal People) for bringing this story to my attention.

Literature Cited
1.  n.a. (2012). AGFC to begin feral cat trapping effort at Barnett Access. The Sun-Times, from

2. Gill, F.B., Ornithology. 1st ed. 1990, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company. 660.

3. Fitzgerald, B.M. and Turner, D.C., Hunting Behaviour of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations, in The Domestic Cat: The biology of its behaviour, D.C. Turner and P.P.G. Bateson, Editors. 2000, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, U.K.; New York. p. 151–175.

4. RSPB (2011) Are cats causing bird declines? Accessed October 26, 2011.

5. Blanton, J.D., et al., “Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2007.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2008. 233(6): p. 884–897.

6. Blanton, J.D., et al., “Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2008.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2009. 235(6): p. 676–689.

7. Blanton, J.D., Palmer, D., and Rupprecht, C.E., “Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2009.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2010. 237(6): p. 646–657.

8. Blanton, J.D., et al., “Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2010.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2011. 239(6): p. 773–783.

9. Bloomer, J.P. and Bester, M.N., “Control of feral cats on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, Indian Ocean.” Biological Conservation. 1992. 60(3): p. 211-219.

10. Ratcliffe, N., et al., “The eradication of feral cats from Ascension Island and its subsequent recolonization by seabirds.” Oryx. 2010. 44(01): p. 20–29.


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