Monday, January 24, 2011

Alley Cat Rescue Cats

Can we win for the cats, and help save birds as well? Yes, we can!

I am convinced of this. Even among all the naysayers and the multi-million-dollar environmental groups that oppose our work, I still think we are on the right path! The cats need defenders, they deserve to live, and they deserve to have someone fight for them. We are their only voice. And by sterilizing stray and feral cats, we are (and for decades have been) saving cats’ lives through nonlethal control, reducing the numbers of outdoors cats in a scientific and humane way, thus helping birds and wildlife as well.
Are cats hunters? Are cats carnivores? Do cats kill birds and wildlife? Do we, the TNR people, care about this?
A resounding YES to all of the above.
Cats do hunt---but this is a complex issue. Not all cats hunt. And most cats catch rodents not birds. They are built to be rodent specialists.  And yes, TNR people who support the cats do care about birds and other wildlife. I love all creatures. I rescue and save earthworms from the pavement during rainstorms and I rescue and relocate spiders to places where they will be safe. I only kill mosquitoes, flies and fleas. Nothing else.
The real issue, as wildlife biologist Roger Tabor put it, is whether prey populations can sustain the predation.
On continents, prey species have survived predation for centuries. In fact “The State of the Birds Report 2009” states: “The urban/suburban indicator, based on data for 114 native bird species, shows a steady, strong increase during the past 40 years…”
 The truth is that most feral cats live in urban and suburban areas, and yet urban birds continue to increase. The truth is that in feral cats have a propensity to scavenge from human trash, plus of course when humans see them scavenging, they put out cat food. Plus the cat is a rodent specialist and even when he has to hunt to fend for himself, small mammals are much easier for him to catch.
Now, having been shown clearly that bird populations in urban areas have been increasing each and every year for 40 years, and for years before that urban birds population numbers remained the same, do the evironmental groups ever point this out?
Let me see: They extrapolate and exaggerate the numbers of birds killed by cats, and they do not make anything of the fact that urban bird populations are increasing, even though most of the “millions” of feral and outdoor strays live in urban environments?
I am thinking that perhaps they have another agenda? An anti-cat bias?
This is sad not only for cats but for birds as well.
Recent research by David I. King of the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Research Station and John H. Rappole of the Smithsonian Conservation and Research Center points scientists in a different direction in the search for the cause of bird declines. While many scientists worry about loss of breeding habitat, the evidence gathered by King and Rappole indicates that the blame may rest more with destruction of the tropical habitat where the birds spend winters.
In Tropic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature, editors John Terborgh and James A. Estes show how numerous studies have highlighted the perverse consequences that can result from  “nuisance control”: the unleashing of even worse nuisances (i.e.mesopredators). For example control of raccoons in Florida to protect sea turtle eggs paradoxically resulted in increased predation on the eggs because another predator, the ghost crab, was released from control by raccoons.
And a poisoning program recently on an island in Alaska's Aleutian chain, intended to save native birds from introduced rats, has caused the death of more than 420 birds, including 46 Bald Eagles.
The rodenticide brodifacoum was applied and caused the death of Gulls who ate the bait, and then Bald Eagles died from eating the Gull carcasses.

This is not an isolated case. This has been happening in islands for many years.

According to Australian environmentalist Frankie Seymour, lethal control of “alien” animals does not work. She says: “Reducing a population of mislocated animals is a complete waste of time (and money) unless you are prepared to keep on reducing it—killing and killing and killing, generation after generation after generation. The moment you turn your back for a year or a season, the population will return to full occupation of all available niches.
“Lethal competitor animal control methods are about temporary concealment of problems. They exist to provide farmers with an on-going excuse for rural mismanagement, and governments with an enemy they can blame instead of addressing the real causes of environmental and ecological degradation.”             
 How can we really help birds? 
1) Reduce your paper and wood consumption-- use cloth bags for shopping
2) Reduce your oil consumption --start a carpool--ride your bike-- take mass transportation.
3) Reduce your beef consumption--especially fast food & processed beef to save rainforests.
4) Hold businesses accountable-- for practices that are socially or environmentally destructive.
5) Support sustainable farming--support The ‘Fair Trade’ movement
6) Buy “Bird-Friendly” (Shade-Grown) coffee, bananas, and chocolate-- grown under the canopy of trees instead of clear cutting.
7) Plant a garden for Birds--blackberries and wild cherries--dogwoods, spicebush, conifers, bayberry, hawthorns, crabapples, sunflowers
8) Rescue and TNR all those stray and feral cats in your neighborhood. Get your neighborhood involved in a Spay/Neuter Marathon to get homeowners’ cats fixed.