Opinions from the Front Lines, or Fog of War?

A recent study finds important differences between cat caretakers and bird conservationists when it comes to their attitudes and beliefs about the impacts of free-roaming cats and how to best manage them. In the end, however, the methods employed lead to far more questions than answers.

“Because western society’s orientations toward wildlife is becoming more moralistic and less utilitarian,” explain the authors of a study recently published online in PLoS ONE, “conservation biologists must develop innovative and collaborative ways to address the threats posed by feral cats rather than assuming wholesale removal of feral cats through euthanasia is a universally viable solution.” [1] Not surprisingly, the authors fail to acknowledge that “euthanasia” hasn’t proven to be a viable [see Note 1] solution anywhere but on small oceanic islands. Still, given the sort of recommendations typically generated by the conservation biology community on this subject, I suppose we have to recognize this as some kind of progress.

While I’m all in favor of collaboration and innovation, I nevertheless can’t help but see a certain irony in the authors’ comment. In “Opinions from the Front Lines of Cat Colony Management Conflict,” Nils Peterson and his co-authors not only fail to question several important assumptions of their own, but actually reinforce them more broadly with a veneer of scientific legitimacy. Indeed, there’s an arrogance evident even in the design of Peterson’s survey, intended to:

“evaluate, compare, and predict cat colony caretaker (CCC) and bird conservation professional (BCP) opinions regarding 1) how cat colony management conflict should be addressed, 2) impacts of feral cats on wildlife, 3) appropriate treatment of feral cats, 4) appropriate management of feral cat colonies, and 5) the efficacy of TNR programs.” [1]

Peterson, Associate Professor in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program at North Carolina State University, sees things differently. In a professional—even cordial—e-mail exchange following the paper’s publication, he explained: “Our suggestion was engaging both groups in the research process from start to finish.”

Again, count me in.

“There are several points about both identity politics and education,” Peterson continues, referring to my numerous complaints about his research, “that could improve dialogue in the future if people paid attention to anything besides what they disagree with.” But “Opinions from the Front Lines” only focuses additional attention on—and, as I’ll explain, exaggerates—areas of disagreement between CCCs and BCPs. TNR advocates, the authors conclude, suffer from too much identity politics and too little education.

Such work is, I’m afraid, unlikely to improve future dialogue.

Facts That Can Be Falsified or Confirmed

“Opinions from the Front Lines” began as an online survey conducted by Peterson and his students (three of whom co-authored the paper) “as part of a human Dimensions of Wildlife Management course project.” [1] Of particular interest to me was their attempt to “explicitly test” the “six major claims attributed to CCC advocates” by Travis Longcore and his co-authors in their 2009 Conservation Biology article “Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap-Neuter-Return.” [2]

Interestingly, it was just a few months after the publication of Longcore’s paper when Christopher Lepczyk, who worked with Peterson and his students [see Note 2] on “Opinions from the Front Lines,” co-authored—along with nine others—a letter to Conservation Biology “applauding” the Longcore essay, “concur[ring] with the authors’ thoughts and findings on TNR and … mak[ing] several additional points about feral cat management and TNR regarding environmental conservation.” Among those points: “the wildlife and conservation communities need to challenge policies that are put forth to allow or promote feral cat colonies and TNR.” [3]

(Longtime readers will recall that Longcore’s paper, along with Conservation Biology’s rejection of my response, played a key role in my launching Vox Felina.)

Anyhow, back to the claims made by Longcore et al. that Peterson and his students set out to test:

“These claims were that feral cats: only harm wildlife on islands, fill a natural or realized niche, do not contribute to the decline of native species, are insignificant vectors of disease, are eventually eliminated by TNR, and in managed colonies resist invasion by other cats.” [1]

Peterson et al. investigated CCC and BCP opinions about the first five of these claims by asking them to respond to five statements, using a five-point Likert scale. Another four statement were used to investigate the “appropriate treatment of feral cats” and “appropriate management of feral cat colonies.” “Four of the statements,” explain the authors, “were normative and the remaining five were empirical. Normative statements reflect value judgments about whether something is desirable or not whereas empirical statements reflect facts that can be falsified or confirmed.” [1]

Actually, those empirical statements weren’t nearly so black-and-white. Though Peterson et al. “field tested the questionnaire using cognitive interviews with three CCCs and three BCPs… to identify and resolve problems with question comprehension, wording, and design,” such efforts were clearly insufficient. [see Note 3] Imprecise wording no doubt played a role in some unexpected responses; more troublesome, though, are the authors’ “facts.” For example:

Feral cats fill a natural role as predators

Fifty-nine percent of CCCs agreed (choosing either the “agreed strongly” or “agreed a little” option) with this statement, compared to just 3 percent of BCPs.

It seems this question was intended to address the issue of cats being a non-native species—which, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, is largely a red herring used by TNR opponents. (Honeybees are also non-native, but their status doesn’t seem to have lessened concerns over Colony Collapse Disorder.) In any case, it’s easy to imagine CCC participants thinking of this statement in terms of cats being “natural hunters,” which would certainly explain their responses.

Feral cats are a reservoir for disease

Eighty-six percent of CCCs disagreed (choosing either the “disagreed strongly” or “disagreed a little” option) with this statement, compared to 12 percent of BCPs. Peterson et al. found it “surprising that most [CCCs] did not consider feral cats as reservoirs for disease given the cats can carry a number of well-known diseases including rabies, toxoplasmosis, feline calcivirus, feline herpesvirus, feline panleukopenia or parvovirus virus, feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, and hookworms, which have the potential to magnify in colonies when veterinary care is not provided.” [1]

Here again, I think the authors are misinterpreting their results.

Every animal—humans included—is a “reservoir for disease,” of course. I suspect that CCC responses reflect an understanding of the relative risks involved with various diseases rather than, as the authors suggest, a poor understanding of the essential facts. It’s likely, too, that as CCCs respond to such statements, they are asking themselves whether the risk of disease warrants lethal control.

It’s important to recognize, also, that colony cats are not necessarily less healthy than owned cats (though, of course, TNR opponents often suggest otherwise). Stoskopf and Nutter (whose work Peterson et al. cite) found that feral cats—“admittedly… under very high levels of management,”—as the authors note, “had similar baseline health status to pet cats…”

“Although there was documentable evidence of infection or exposure of feral cats to all 7 pathogens we examined, prevalences were similar to and not statistically different from prevalences in owned cats for 5 of the 7 pathogens.” [4] [see Note 4]

A study of 1,876 colony cats in North Carolina and Florida revealed a 4.3 percent rate of feline leukemia prevalence, and a 3.5 percent rate of feline immunodeficiency virus seroprevalence, “similar to infection rates reported for owned cats.” [5] Similar findings were reported from Ottawa, Ontario: “Seroprevalence of FIV was highest in urban stray cats (23 percent) and lower in client-owned cats (5.9 percent) and in a feral cat colony (5 percent). The same groups of cats had 6.7, 2.6, and 0 percent seroprevalence of FeLV, respectively.” [6]

Feral cats ONLY harm wildlife on islands

Fifty-nine percent of CCCs disagreed, compared to 95 percent of BCPs—considerably more agreement between the two groups than was seen for the other four empirical statements.

As with the statement about disease, I think CCC responses reflect their interpretation of extent or impact rather than any factual error. It’s difficult to imagine that these people are unaware of a cat’s ability to injure and/or kill wildlife; indeed, as Peterson et al. note, “most CCCs see direct evidence of cats killing wild animals.” [1]

Feral cats contribute to decline of native birds

Sixty percent of CCCs disagreed, compared to 9 percent of BCPs. (Seventy-five percent of BCPs agreed strongly.)

“Incorrect” responses to this and other statements led Peterson et al. to conclude that “most CCCs held false beliefs about the impacts of feral cats on wildlife.” [1] But where’s the evidence demonstrating that it’s true?

In their contribution to “The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour,” researchers Mike Fitzgerald and Dennis Turner thoroughly more than 80 predation studies, concluding rather unambiguously that “there are few, if any studies apart from island ones that actually demonstrate that cats have reduced bird populations.” [7] (It’s interesting to consider the previous empirical statement, about feral cats harming wildlife only on islands, in light of such conclusions.)

Predators—cats included—tend to prey on the young, the old, the weak and unhealthy. At least two studies have investigated this in great detail, revealing that birds killed by cats are, on average, significantly less healthy that birds killed through non-predatory events (e.g., collisions with windows or cars). [8, 9]

As the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds notes: “Despite the large numbers of birds killed, there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide… It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations.” [10]

Feral cats are eventually eliminated by TNR

Sixty-nine percent of CCCs agreed, compared to just 9 percent of BCPs.

How can this statement be, as the authors claim, empirically false if such TNR successes have been demonstrated in the literature—in addition, I’m sure, to numerous instances not formally documented?

Felicia Nutter, for example, reported that one of the sterilized colonies (which originally consisted of 10 cats) included in her PhD research “went extinct after 31 months of follow-up” [11] Three of 11 colonies monitored over an 11-year period on the University of Central Florida campus “were eventually depleted of cats,” though, admittedly, the accounting is hardly as straightforward as one might wish. [12] [see Note 5]

In December of 2009, the last of the Newburyport, Massachusetts’ “wharf cats” died. According to both Alley Cat Allies and the local paper, this colony once included something like 300 cats. A 1996 story in the Boston Herald describes “an estimated 200 wild, roaming cats” [13] (Zorro, the last of the colony cats, was 16 years old.)

Value Judgments About Whether Something is Desirable or Not

Among the four normative statements Peterson et al. presented to survey participants, I was most interested in the two that came toward the end of that part of the survey:

Feral cat colonies should be managed using euthanasia

Feral cat colonies should be managed using TNR

Not surprisingly, CCC and BCP responses differed dramatically. Ninety-nine percent of CCCs disagreed (choosing either the “disagreed strongly” or “disagreed a little” option) with the first statement, compared to 12 percent of BCPs; by contrast, just 2 percent of CCCs disagreed with the second statement, compared to 68 percent of BCPs.

I wonder, though, if the authors would have gotten a different response if they’d used the term lethal control rather than euthanasia. Frankly, I find the softer language disingenuous at best; these cats are to be killed, period. (A well-placed shot from a hunter kills an animal more quickly than does any roundup of feral cats—yet the hunter would never call what he does euthanasia.)

Of course, there’s no way to know for sure if I’m right about how each statement’s wording might have affected CCC (and BCP) responses. There are, however, research methods that minimize the likelihood of such misunderstanding. I’ll get to that shortly.

In Conclusion or Inconclusive?

In light of the survey’s shortcomings, it’s not surprising that the conclusions drawn by Peterson et al. also, at least in some instances, miss the mark. (A colleague who’s far more familiar with qualitative research methods than I am reviewed the survey and responded: “This is more like push polling than social science. The questions seem determined to force people to take even harder stands.”)

Their observation, for example, that “BCPs united by injustices perpetrated against biotic integrity may pursue policy detrimental to the cats they also identify with” [1] overlooks the fact that the underlying identity politics to which the authors refer can be detrimental to the birds these stakeholders identify with. As I’ve pointed out on several occasions (see, for example, my January 23 post), feeding bans and TNR restrictions only help to drive cats and caretakers underground. There’s no reason to think the result will be beneficial to wildlife.

Conflict Resolution

Despite the “highly divergent normative beliefs identified in this study,” Peterson et al. found that “most CCCs (80 percent) thought conflict resolution was possible, but only 50 percent of BCPs shared the same sentiment.” [1] While I see hope in the numbers, I’m disappointed with the authors’ interpretation:

“The lower acceptance of collaborative solutions found among BCPs in this study may reflect their awareness that wildlife conservation agencies will not provide decision space for options endorsing TNR anywhere on public or private land designated as endangered species habitat.” [1]

Might I suggest another factor? BCPs have been fed a steady diet of misinformation for years now suggesting that the situation for virtually all birds everywhere is dire, and that cats are a significant risk to them. And the messaging has been quite effective. Indeed, I was surprised that 20 percent of BCPs were unaware of cat colony management conflicts.


The “incorrect” responses made by CCCs to the survey’s empirical statements “provide direct evidence of data conflict between CCCs and BCPs,” explain Peterson et al. “Education is the obvious tool for addressing data conflicts, but given the highly divergent normative beliefs identified in this study, traditional educational outreach would likely fail.”

“In contexts where lack of agreement about data rather than lack of data prevents agreement about empirical facts, conservation biologists should engage stakeholders in prioritizing data needs, devising means to collect data, and developing shared criteria for judging data. This approach to science can help overcome elements of data conflict rooted in different views of data relevance and validity by giving stakeholders ownership of empirical findings and a deeper understanding of evidence for empirical claims being made.” [1]

Or, as Peterson put it in our e-mail exchange: “If cat colony advocates were engaged in the research as we suggest there would be citable literature that actually accounts for your perspective in the future.”

In fact, there’s already plenty of citable research that accounts for my perspective. The aforementioned work by Fitzgerald and Turner, for example. Or the research demonstrating that birds killed by cats are, on average, significantly less healthy than birds killed through non-predatory events (e.g., collisions with windows or cars). [8, 9] But this work is almost never cited by TNR opponents. (A notable exception being the American Bird Conservancy’s ongoing misrepresentation of Fitzgerald’s research. [14])

And what about the numerous instances (only some of which I’ve had time to blog about) in which TNR opponents misrepresent data (or entire studies) to support their arguments? Peter Marra’s 2011 opinion piece in the Washington Post, for example, or the joint press release this August from The American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society, in which the five birds killed over the course of Kerry Anne Loyd’s KittyCam research were used as justification for ABC president George Fenwick to conclude: “Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.”

Would it really have made a difference if, as Peterson suggests, TNR supporters were involved in this work?

Would, for instance, Conservation Biology—which rejected my response to Longcore’s 2009 essay (“I am reluctant to further engage the topic in the journal in great detail,” wrote outgoing editor Gary Meffe) only to publish the “applause” letter by Lepczyk et al. three months later—publish the kind of collaborative work Peterson envisions?

Not as long as science takes a backseat to cronyism, politics, and “messaging.” Peterson et al. underestimate both the extent and nature of the problem.

No Conservation Biologist Left Behind

Rather than emphasizing the need to educate TNR advocates, the authors of “Opinions from the Front Lines” ought to be turning their attention inward, to the community of conservation biologists. What about educating them?

This is a question that ought to be of particular interest to Peterson and Lepczyk, both of whom are university professors. Yet their paper lacks the kind of rigorous scholarship required to advance any debate on the basis of sound science.

The authors suggest, for example, that “although the number of domestic cats is uncertain… 50–150 million roam freely in North America alone,” [1] the upper limit being a gross exaggeration that can be traced to Dauphiné and Cooper’s 2009 Partners In Flight paper (which Peterson et al. cite). One wonders what impact the continued publication of such inflated figures has on stakeholders’ opinions of feral cat management.

Or how their beliefs and attitudes are shaped by portrayals of “larger organizations [that] are well funded and work to network CCCs, and advocate for legal and financially viable TNR programs.” [1] Not that Peterson et al. are the first to play the “powerful cat lobby” card, of course. Indeed, it’s become standard practice in recent years [15–17], though there’s rarely a similar interest in examining the finances of TNR opponents. [see Note 6] If the point is simply to acknowledge the role that funding plays in advocacy—and, in turn, the beliefs and attitudes of TNR supporters—then we need to look at such funding on both sides of the debate.

A more rigorous effort to advance the conversation would also involve more credible sources.

Peterson et al. refer, of all places, to ABC’s website when they write: “Managing outdoor cats has been a contentious issue in recent years as highlighted by such events as the superior court ruling against sanctioning and implementing TNR in feral cat colonies of Los Angeles in 2009…” [1] Had they instead read the Los Angeles Times’ coverage, they would have learned that the injunction is far more specific than they suggest, prohibiting only the City of Los Angeles from “subsidizing or promoting” TNR [18] (a point even ABC acknowledged—sort of).

Other organizations are free to do so, and continue conducting TNR throughout the city.

Another dubious source: the “National Key Deer Refuge staff,” which Peterson et al. thank “for help providing feedback on study design, and providing insight on our findings.” [1] Now, I don’t know who they spoke with, and I’m not suggesting that none of the NKDR staff would be capable of providing useful feedback and insights. But the organization’s track record where feral cats are concerned is simply abysmal.

Their Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Predator Management Plan/Draft Environmental Assessment, for example, fails to adequately address—or overlooks entirely—several key issues (as I’ve described in some detail previously). And the organization’s ongoing efforts to trap cats on Refuge land—often at great expense and little success—has drawn a great deal of criticism from nearby residents.

But the most peculiar reference cited by Peterson et al. is the one used to support their claim that lethal control methods are “less expensive and more efficient” than TNR. Here, the problem is not the source itself, but the fact that the paper cited indicates nothing of the sort. Indeed, the closest we get is when Michael Stoskopf and then-PhD student Felicia Nutter wrap up their section on “the economics of high-end TNR management” concluding: “what works best and most economically is likely to vary from region to region and habitat to habitat, and certainly by the nature of the colony, but sound economic analyses of components of feral cat management efforts can help guide practical decision-making.” [4]

Hang on—this is just starting to get interesting.

When Walter Lamb made the same observation in an online comment to “Opinions from the Front Lines,” Peterson responded by directing him to “Costs and Benefits of Trap-Neuter-Release and Euthanasia for Removal of Urban Cats in Oahu, Hawaii,” a paper published recently in Conservation Biology, the lead author of which is Cheryl Lohr, one of Lepczyk’s graduate students. (Lepczyk’s name also appears on the paper, along with Linda Cox’s, one of his colleagues in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.)

But as Walter noted, this paper was published online nearly three weeks after Peterson et al. had theirs published online. If the original citation was made in error—and such things do happen—then why not just say so and replace the incorrect reference with the correct one? The fact Peterson has not suggests that their statement was not supported by any scientific research. And, as we’ll see, the case made by Lohr et al. (worthy of a post of its own, to be sure) is remarkably weak.


I don’t think so. Such sloppy scholarship is evidence of a community of researchers unable or unwilling to demand sufficient rigor of its members.

A Few Words about “Costs and Benefits of TNR”

The results of the simulation modeling conducted by Lohr, Cox, and Lepczyk are, of course, dependent upon several critical inputs. And, as the authors illustrate in the article’s supporting information (PDF), the model is more sensitive to some than to others.

Still, a number of their basic assumptions are questionable (a point Walter makes in his comments; in fact, his criticisms and mine are very similar). That “the cats formed a single super colony rather than a metapopulation or multiple discrete colonies,” [19] for example. In this case, a “super colony” of more than 30,000 cats. The authors also assume that “the trap-neuter-release program provided funds necessary for purchasing cat food and veterinary care,” though they admit that this is not actually the case: “in Hawaii caretakers of cat colonies are required to provide food and veterinary care.” [19]

The only economic benefit (of either management approach) that Lohr et al. estimated was based on cats’ predation of wedge-tailed shearwaters. Here, they used a depredation rate of 42 percent, though the study they cite was quite narrow in its scope (“comparing three small unmanaged colonies at Malaekahana State Recreation Area on O’ahu, where feral cats are fed by the public, with a large managed colony at nearby Moku’auia Island State Seabird Sanctuary, where predators are absent” [20]), raising questions about how representative that 42 percent figure is.

And the value of each shearwater ranged from $1 to $15,000, because “under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty a person may be fined up to $15,000 for killing a single protected bird.” But wedge-tailed shearwaters aren’t, as far as I’ve been able to determine, protected in Hawaii. (The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species’ status as Least Concern.)

By contrast, Lohr et al. “could not include an estimate of the value of a cat’s life in the model because,” they explain, “to our knowledge no research has estimated the economic value of a feral cat to society.” But as the authors note, “willingness-to-pay assessments are often used as a method of estimating the economic value of an animal.” [19] So why not apply this to feral cats? Just as bird watchers are willing to pay to observe—or, in the case of hunters, kill— certain species in certain contexts (two examples used by Pimentel, [21] whose work Lohr et al. cite), feral cat caretakers are willing to pay for the ongoing care of the cats they oversee.

Lohr et al. estimate that caretakers spend $61.17 per cat on food and another $56.20 on each cat’s veterinary care each year. If, as they suggest, each caretaker looks after an average of 13.9 cats, that’s $1,631/year—often for many years.

For an example more akin to the authors’ ESA argument, one might turn to the recent news story about somebody firing a BB gun at feral cats living at a Hawaii Kai Park and Ride. A $2,000 reward is being offered for information in the case. [22] “Thus,” to borrow a line from Lohr et al., “a case can be made” that a single cat is worth $2,000.

Among the authors’ other dubious assumptions: 30,000 feral cats—more than they suggest are in all of Hawaii—can be removed in one year, by trappers paid $7.50–15.00/hour. The only other expenses Lohr et al. acknowledge for lethal control efforts are for traps ($68.26 each) and the “euthanasia” itself, which they estimate at $25/cat, based on information obtained from the Humane Society of Kent County, Michigan’s website in 2009. According to the Humane Society of West Michigan, which, it seems, has merged with or taken over HSKC, the price is now $40/cat.

Of course, that assumes no holding time—and such expenses can be considerable. In Hillsborough County, FL, for example, it’s been estimated that “picking-up, handling, and disposing of an animal” costs the county $168. [23] Without a holding time, plenty of pet cats would surely be killed too. In which case, we’d better add to the cost of Lohr’s lethal control model the expense of the inevitable legal battle.

It’s curious that the authors don’t comment on eradication “successes” that have proven far more resource-intensive than what they’ve modeled.

On Marion Island, for example, it took 19 years to exterminate approximately 2,200 cats—using feline distemper, poisoning, hunting and trapping, and dogs. [24] Just 115 square miles in total area, this barren, uninhabited South Indian Ocean island is the largest from which cats have been eradicated. On Ascension Island, roughly one-third the size of Marion Island, it cost approximately $1,732/cat to eradicate an estimated 635 cats over 27 months. (Nearly 40 percent of the island’s pet cats were accidentally killed in the process, which, as one report noted, “caused public consternation.” [25])

Yet Lohr et al. suggest that 30,000 cats—from every remote corner of Hawaii—can be “euthanized” within a single year for $20–29 million. Such economic “estimates” are more fiction than anything else—with a little tinkering, it seems, one can achieve whatever outcome is desired.

So who would pay for such work?

American taxpayers, it turns out—Lohr received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for this project.

Perhaps that’s why she and her colleagues didn’t mention the USDA’s track record when it comes to trapping cats. In 2007, the agency was paid $50K by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (specifically, the aforementioned National Key Deer Refuge) to trap cats in the Florida Keys. [26] Unofficial reports (I’m told nothing official was issued) suggest that something like 13 cats were caught—some of which were clearly not feral—along with 81 raccoons, 53 of which were released alive. [27]

Unknown Unknowns

“There are known unknowns,” explained former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a 2002 news briefing. “That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

That’s the primary drawback of surveys and questionnaires: we don’t know what we don’t know.

“If research begins with questionnaires,” explain Rebecca Drury and her co-authors in “Less is more: the potential of qualitative approaches in conservation research,” “there is no way of knowing whether closed questions are being responded to at face value, and accessing genuine issues underlying respondents’ attitudes and behaviour, or are simply perpetuating the worldview of the questionnaire designers. Policy based on structured but poorly grounded approaches may backfire.” [28]

Qualitative research methods (e.g., participant observation and interviews, which have been used by anthropologists for generations), on the other hand, reveal important factors underlying various beliefs and attitudes. They offer to potential to make those unknowns known.

Such methods can, argue Drury et al., “constitute valuable valid research findings on matters critical to conservation research and to designing successful conservation initiatives, which cannot be effectively researched in any other way.” [28]

If conservation biologists are truly interested in “innovative and collaborative ways to address the threats posed by feral cats,” then, they might start by scrapping their poorly designed surveys in favor of more appropriate research tools.

•     •     •

Note 1: An awkward linguistic choice, in light of the word’s origins.

Note 2: It’s not clear what Lepczyk’s contribution was, as it appears that he came on board after the survey was designed and administered. I’d hoped to find out more at the Outdoor Cats conference, where Lepczyk was scheduled to make a presentation. Unfortunately, there was a change of plans (the details of which I don’t know) and he did not.

Note 3: I offered to provide feedback for any similar research projects Peterson should undertake in the future.

Note 4: “Feral cats did have higher seroprevalences of antibodies against B. henselae and T. gondii than did pet cats, but this likely was related to greater exposure to vectors of these organisms.” [4]

Note 5: “In one colony, the cats’ shelter was demolished to make way for construction of new dormitories. Of the six cats residing in the colony at the time of demolition, one was adopted immediately, one was not observed again, two immediately joined other colonies, one joined another colony after roaming for two years, and one was adopted after roaming without a fixed colony for two years. All three cats that relocated selected different colonies to join. Two colonies gradually decreased in size because of attrition and relocation of members to other colonies; eventually, these were depleted as the last members were adopted.” [12]

Note 6: According to IRS filings for 2010, PETA took in $31.8 million that year; the American Bird Conservancy reported revenue of $8.4M (which would increase to $9.8 million in 2011), and The Wildlife Society: $2.5 million. The National Audubon Society reported revenue of more than $103 million in 2010, and finished the year with more than $401 million in net assets. (Some local and regional chapters are surprisingly flush as well. The New Jersey Audubon Society’s 2010 revenue topped $6.3 million, for example, and the Audubon Society of Portland reported $2.3 million for the same year.)

Literature Cited

1. Peterson, M.N., et al., “Opinions from the Front Lines of Cat Colony Management Conflict.” PLoS ONE. 2012. 7(9): p. e44616. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0044616

2. Longcore, T., Rich, C., and Sullivan, L.M., “Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap-Neuter-Return.” Conservation Biology. 2009. 23(4): p. 887–894. http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/pdf/Management_claims_feral_cats.pdf

3. Lepczyk, C.A., et al., “What Conservation Biologists Can Do to Counter Trap-Neuter-Return: Response to Longcore et al.” Conservation Biology. 2010. 24(2): p. 627–629. www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/pdf/Lepczyk-2010-Conservation%2520Biology.pdf

4. Stoskopf, M.K. and Nutter, F.B., “Analyzing approaches to feral cat management—one size does not fit all.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1361–1364. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15552309


5. Lee, I.T., et al., “Prevalence of feline leukemia virus infection and serum antibodies against feline immunodeficiency virus in unowned free-roaming cats.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2002. 220(5): p. 620-622. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2002.220.620

6. Little, S., “A review of feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus seroprevalence in cats in Canada.” Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 2011. 143(3-4): p. 243–245. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21757241

7. 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.

8. Møller, A.P. and Erritzøe, J., “Predation against birds with low immunocompetence.” Oecologia. 2000. 122(4): p. 500–504. http://www.springerlink.com/content/ghnny9mcv016ljd8/

9. Baker, P.J., et al., “Cats about town: Is predation by free-ranging pet cats Felis catus likely to affect urban bird populations? Ibis. 2008. 150: p. 86–99. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/ibi/2008/00000150/A00101s1/art00008

10. RSPB (2011) Are cats causing bird declines? http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/cats/birddeclines.aspx Accessed October 26, 2011.

11. Nutter, F.B., Evaluation of a Trap-Neuter-Return Management Program for Feral Cat Colonies: Population Dynamics, Home Ranges, and Potentially Zoonotic Diseases, in Comparative Biomedical Department. 2005, North Carolina State University: Raleigh, NC. p. 224. http://www.carnivoreconservation.org/files/thesis/nutter_2005_phd.pdf

12. Levy, J.K., Gale, D.W., and Gale, L.A., “Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2003. 222(1): p. 42–46. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2003.222.42

13. Donlan, A.E. (1996, June 30). North Shore cat-lovers go… Where the wild things are. Boston Herald,

14. ABC, Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife. 2011, American Bird Conservancy: The Plains, VA. http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/materials/CatPredation2011.pdf

15. Williams, T., “Felines Fatale.” Audubon Magazine. 2009. September-October. http://www.audubonmagazine.org/incite/incite0909.html

16. Dauphiné, N., “Follow the Money: The Economics of TNR Advocacy.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 54.

17. Sterba, J.P., Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds. 2012: Crown.

18. Yoshino, K. (2010, January 17). A catfight over neutering program. Los Angeles Times, from http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-feral-cats17-2010jan17,0,1225635.story

19. Lohr, C.A., Cox, L.J., and Lepczyk, C.A., “Costs and Benefits of Trap-Neuter-Release and Euthanasia for Removal of Urban Cats in Oahu, Hawaii.” Conservation Biology. 2012: p. N/A. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01935.x

20. Smith, D.G., Polhemus, J.T., and VanderWerf, E.A., “Comparison of managed and unmanaged wedge-tailed shearwater colonies on O‘ahu: effects of predation.” Pacific Science. 2002. 56: p. 451–457.

21. Pimentel, D., et al., “Environmental and Economic Costs of Nonindigenous Species in the United States.” Bio Science. 2000. 50(1): p. 53–65. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1641/0006-3568%282000%29050%5B0053%3AEAECON%5D2.3.CO%3B2?journalCode=bisi


22. Randle, B. (2012) Hawaii Kai cat shootings prompt investigationhttp://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/Hawaii-Kai-cat-shootings-prompt-investigation/Jz7e8iEfWkSkqxqHyPK50g.cspx Accessed December 15.

23. Hamilton, F.E., “Leading and Organizing Social Change for Companion Animals.” Anthrozoös. 2010. 23(3): p. 277–292. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/berg/anthroz/2010/00000023/00000003/art00006

24. 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. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V5X-48XKBM6-T0/2/06492dd3a022e4a4f9e437a943dd1d8b

25. 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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003060530999069X

26. O’Hara, T. (2007, April 3). Fish & Wildlife Service to begin removing cats from Keys refuges. The Key West Citizen, from http://keysnews.com/archives

27. n.a., Lower Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan. 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/


28. Drury, R., Homewood, K., and Randall, S., “Less is more: the potential of qualitative approaches in conservation research.” Animal Conservation. 2011. 14(1): p. 18–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00375.x