On 14 March, 2013, the Orlando Sentinel published an opinion piece by Ted Williams under the headline “Trap, neuter, return programs make feral-cat problem worse.” In the piece he made the arguments that one normally makes when arguing against trap-neuter-return (TNR): it encourages more abandonment, it’s ineffective at reducing feral cat populations, the colonies are reservoirs for diseases that can infect people and other species, the cats often suffer from grievous injuries, and the cats kill native wildlife. Pretty standard. He also quoted a biologist pointing out how extreme the TNR people are and gave a few examples. Then he gave a couple of alternative solutions to the feral cat problem:
There are two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR. One is Tylenol (the human pain medication) — a completely selective feral-cat poison. But the TNR lobby has blocked its registration for this use. The other is trap and euthanize. TE is practiced by state and federal wildlife managers; but municipal TE needs to happen if the annihilation of native wildlife is to be significantly slowed.
The line about using Tylenol was like setting a pack of firecrackers off beneath the extremists at Alley Cat Allies, who are pretty notorious for claiming that feral cats are “a natural part of the landscape” and “play important roles in the ecosystem.” By the very next day they were calling on their mindless followers to email the National Audubon Society’s CEO, David Yarnold, and Chairman, B Holt Thrasher, to call for Williams’ dismissal because he “just published a major newspaper editorial calling on the public to kill millions of cats by poisoning them with Tylenol.”
Wait, what? Is that what Ted said? Ted not only did not call on anyone to poison cats but he pointed out that Tylenol is not registered for use in killing cats.
Never ones to let facts stand in the way of a good, old-fashioned, witch-hunt, the hordes of cat crazies heeded the call of their overlords and not only sent emails but essentially took over the National Audubon Society’s Facebook page. By the very next day, 16 March 2013, National Audubon Society announced on their Facebook page that they had suspended their contract with Ted Williams and removed him from their masthead as editor-at-large “pending further review.”
How is it that a little-known organization of extremists (even PETA does not oppose trap-and-euthanize because they recognize it is often less cruel than TNR) with an annual budget of about $5 million could cow a nationally recognized, respected, conservation organization that had over $300 million in assets in 2010? And why would the National Audubon Society cave so quickly to an organization completely at odds with its conservation mission?
It can’t be because of the content of the column Ted Williams wrote. What he wrote was not incendiary, not reckless, and not out of the mainstream among conservationists. Even the fact that his byline originally read “Ted Williams is editor-at-large for Audubon magazine” does not seem like it would be much of an issue, especially as it was subsequently revised to read “Ted Williams writes an independent column for Audubon magazine. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the National Audubon Society.” It is not hard to find other examples of articles that Williams has written that have similar statements about him being an editor-at-large for Audubon. Not only that, but the harmless statement about Tylenol was edited out of the column as well.
And just a bunch of cat crazies posting on a Facebook page couldn’t have been what did it either. After all, if the much smaller North Carolina Audubon could weather the off road vehicle (ORV) extremists who flooded the North Carolina Audubon Facebook page in the wake of the new ORV policy for Cape Hatteras then the national could certainly handle a week or so of crazy cat people. What reason is there then?
In a conversation about this issue on Facebook a former Audubon staffer explained Audubon’s reasoning this way:
OK, I’m gonna say it. Money talks. Not signatures. Check out the annual budget for Alley Cat Allies. Then check out the budget for ABC’s cats indoors program. Don’t even bother to look for a cat issue budget at Audubon–if things are as they were when I was there, I can count the cat issue dollars budgeted there on the fist of one hand ($0). So if you are Audubon, and nobody is giving you money to deal with the cat issue, and lots of vocal cat people are quick to vilify you, it isn’t surprising to make the kind of call they did to dump Ted and try to distance themselves from this issue. Yes, they have a long-published statement. Just ask anyone on the board back when they passed their board resolution how easy it was to do that–and what have they done to back it up recently? I’ve spent a lot of heartbeats on this issue. And we won’t see change without some real $ and a stronger stomach and political will to take on this problem.
Before the recent events you had to really dig around on the National Audubon Society’s website before you finally got to this page on cats. Even if you knew exactly where it was it would still take five clicks to get to from the home page. Apparently, the scourge that is feral cats is not even close to a top priority for the National Audubon Society.
So, is that it? Did the National Audubon Society pull the rug out from under a thirty-plus-years contributor because there was no money in backing him or his issue and they got spooked by a bunch of comments on Facebook? I can’t come up with another reason that makes sense. The closest thing to a reason that has been given publicly for the decision that the National Audubon Society made is as follows:
Mr. Williams described using over-the-counter drugs to poison cats. And because of Mr. Williams’ stated affiliation with Audubon in that original piece, some readers assumed that Audubon was endorsing this approach. We do not. We regret any misimpression that Mr. Williams was speaking for us in any way: He wasn’t.
When I contacted the National Audubon Society for comment I was offered the following, essentially a rewording of their public statement:
In the course of the original piece, which has since been edited by the Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Williams described using over-the-counter drugs to poison cats. And because of Mr. Williams’ stated affiliation with Audubon in that original piece, some readers assumed that Audubon was endorsing this approach. We do not.
There was confusion. The confusion was quickly cleared up. Why did this lead to Ted Williams being suspended? It can only be because the National Audubon Society sees no gain in standing up to the cat crazies.
Ironically, in caving in to the cat crazies the National Audubon Society for the first time I can recall put the issues surrounding the native wildlife holocaust that outdoor cats are causing on the front page of the National Audubon Society’s website. This reminds me that the saddest part of this whole kerfuffle isn’t that Ted Williams’ work might no longer appear in the pages of Audubon Magazine.
No, to me the saddest part of this whole situation is that the National Audubon Society has been missing in action for years on what is one of the most crucial conservation challenges facing our native birds, mammals, and herps. As soon as they are challenged in the slightest by an organization dedicated to perpetuating the destruction of native wildlife by feral cats the National Audubon Society, an organization that used to have wardens willing to lay down their lives to protect birds, caved. An organization that used to have staff willing to face armed opposition is now afraid of keyboard commandos writing mean things on a Facebook wall. That is pathetic.
A good first step to getting back to the Audubon of old, the Audubon that still had some fight in it, the Audubon that was actually respected, would be to finish up their “review” quickly and fully reinstate Ted Williams to his post as editor-at-large. A good next step would be to devote a significant annual budget to fighting the lies and propaganda that Alley Cat Allies and their ilk put out. If the weight of an organization like the National Audubon Society was added to the great work that the American Bird Conservancy has been doing some real change could be made and lots of birds could be saved. And isn’t that what the National Audubon Society is supposed to be all about?
Is Audubon spinning in his grave at what his namesake has become?
As a board member of my local (Atlanta) chapter, I will certainly be bringing this issue up for discussion at our next meeting. My feeling, though, is that local chapters have an even weaker stomach than national does when it comes to controversy of this magnitude… national’s wishy-washy stance makes it even more difficult to stick our “neck” out.
For National Audubon, it’s ALWAYS about the money. No surprises here.
Thank you for the post and taking on this issue. The deep pockets for feral cats goes further than just Alley Cat Allies. The large “humane” groups are spending big money to support anything that stops euthanasia of feral cats (=TNR), including Humane Society of the United States, Best Friends, ASPCA, etc. But it doesn’t stop there; the pet product purveyors (e.g., PetSmart Charities) are also pouring money into TNR because it develops a market that won’t go away; outdoor cat feeders. And this is all part of the “No Kill” movement, which politicians don’t appear to realize or care means taking away the rights of managers or property owners to remove feral cats (see my op-ed for ABC on this at http://urbanwildlands.org/Resources/2012LongcoreBirdCalls.pdf). National Audubon doesn’t appear to understand this, especially when they recommend following local laws, which continue to be eviscerated by No KIll policies.
Not wanting to see cats killed does not make one a “crazy” or a “mindless follower”, and I am really disappointed in seeing people I usually respect being so dismissive of others who may not share their sentiments. Ted Williams did not just offend the so-called “crazies”, he offended many middle-of-the-road cat and bird lovers, some of whom are staunch wildlife advocates. He offended me. He offended many people I know. I fully agree with Audubon’s decision to censure him.
There are tens of millions of cat owners who might become our allies, but not if “we” suggest or support the inhumane poisoning of animals (check out what really happens if a cat consumes Tylenol), or if we insist on calling anyone opposed to wholesale killing of cats “crazy”.
If we want to speed up adoption of wildlife-friendly cat management laws and strategies, we need the cat people to work with us, not against us. We’ll never get perfection–let’s focus on progress! Where I live, more and more cats are being kept under control, and there are signs that a lot of people are “getting it”. Don’t undermine that progress with emotion-driven name-calling. Let’s do better than that!
@Ann: No one ‘wants’ to see cats killed. Some simply realize it can’t be avoided.
Furthermore, I don’t see how Ted Williams offended anyone as he presented his arguments in a plain, rational, and unemotional way. He may have upset people, but offended? No.
Even if he offended people (and remember I do not think he did), I think Audubon clearly over-reacted. There simply is no way his article would justify such drastic actions from Audubon in any way.
And your point about name-calling: going through the comments of Corey’s original post on the subject, the name-calling was mostly from the “cat people” side – heck, he even got compared to a Nazi. While “cat crazies” may not be very nice, it clearly isn’t a very offensive term. I definitely got called much worse things by cat people.
Alley Cat Allies always opposes lethal control of feral cats, regardless of the method and even when there is endangered wildlife involved. It’s not really about Tylenol; it’s about power. If they can claim a casualty now and then it increases their leverage in future disputes. I’m not surprised to see Audubon cave given that Alley Cat Allies cowed the Fish & Wildlife Service into not enforcing the Endangered Species Act in Cape May. I’m still disappointed in Audubon, though.
I agree with Nate’s comments on Audubon as an organization. It’s growth into a big-money organization is undermining its effectiveness on conservation issues and on grassroots action.
Feral cats are an invasive species inadvertently destroying the ecosystem. This is a fact. They are not native, they were brought over as mousers and pets on ships from Europe. This is a fact. They don’t know any better, it’s what they do, and they’re damn good at it.
The same thing goes for feral hogs, which uproot and destroy natural habitats and farms alike. But pigs, especially feral hogs, aren’t cute and fluffy, and you don’t see activists rising up to defend the eradication of those animals as they devastate state parks and other natural areas. No, these idiot activists are attributing the nature of their pets, tame cats, to the cats that are wild animals as much as children would think of a teddy bear when they see a grizzly.
I don’t like the idea of anyone killing cats, but the fact is that the scientific data has shown again and again that feral cats are an incredibly destructive AND unchecked force in the wild. The cats are here because of us, because of humans, and it’s our responsibility to deal with them. Coddling them and feeding them clearly isn’t working (though I still support the idea of catching, neutering/spaying and then releasing cats, but there are some cat crazies even against that!). I think outreach is possible, but right now there needs to be action because birds (and the sordid amount of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that cats kill even when they aren’t hungry) are suffering across the country, with populations diminishing yearly.
I understand Audubon, like most large groups, is concerned with liability, and since they get much more attention than individuals and they don’t have the benefit of anonymous internet posting as we do, they have to be careful about what they say or who represents them. At the same time, they are dependent on donations as they are a non-profit, and I’m sure that they have plenty of supporters who are on the fence about cats. Meanwhile people such as ourselves can say whatever we want and don’t have to worry about losing support. I don’t support Audubon’s decision, but I understand it. They aren’t the problem here anyway, its groups like ACA who start throwing feces.
Groups like Alley Cat Allies are illogical and obsessive. They are blind to anything but their precious little sit-at-home felines, believing that all cats in the world are defenseless and dependent on our benevolent touch to survive- No, if we all vanished right now, feral cats would be FINE. They would continue to overpopulate and diminish native species with or without us. If ACA wants to take responsibility for feral cats, then they also need to take responsibility for the bird species and other animals being devoured across the country. I do not think anyone should cater to these mislead activists who jump the gun, who are easily offended, and who refuse to accept the truth. Instead of being level headed to discussion they essentially throw a tantrum across the internet and that is pitiful.
True activism would be managing feral cat populations with regard to the rest of the ecosystem, not throwing verbal napalm. Great conservation organizations and government agencies should not be influenced by the bitter sensitive yowling of groups like Alley Cat Allies, because ACA IS NOT a conservation group, they are delusional elitists striving to protect a highly destructive invasive species. They are focused solely on cats, so the rest of the environment, and apparently the opinions of other people, can go to hell. The cat population is already out of control, there never was any control, and the strategies such as ACA use should have been implemented a hundred years ago, when they would have been effective.
That bottrom line is there are too many feral cats, not just in the US but across the planet. I lived in Okinawa, Japan for 4 years and the feral cat problem there is out of control, despite the fact that the island has several soecies of endangered endemic fauna. Part of the problem lies with US military families stationed there. They arrive for a 2 or 3 year tour of duty, adopt pretty little kitty, and then abandon the animal when they find out the airfare cost to ship it home. The island is overun with cats and there are no control programs in place.
This past summer I visited the the Big Island of Hawai’i. There is a public park in the town of Kailua with a TNR cat colony that attracts large numbers of mongoose to the overflowing bowls of food. And then the Hawaiian government in their nature and conservation brochures laments the decline of native fauna because of introduced species. Duh???
I love all animals but the feral cat problem is out of control. I fully support TE programs. If not, the public is going to address the problem in their own way, which will not please the cat fanciers.
and are you talking about Americe or HAwaii? Apples or oranges?
Um, Antonia, I hate to break it to you but, well, Hawaii is a state in the United States.
@Jochen and the others. PLLLLLLEEEEEAAAASEE stop calling people who don’t agree with you idiots, craxy, mindless, or whatever other terms your fingers can come up with. They are people who are just as passionate as you are about their causes. It’s going to take a lot of effort and cooperation to get them to recgonize the issue and start to address it. I know. I was one of them. Until 20 years ago, I let my cats outdoors. I said all of the things that they are saying. One of the things I was most annoyed with was the inflated numbers that conservancy groups spouted based on tiny, specific samples. I still have trouble accepting their numbers, but that doesn’t matter. I am convinced that it is better for CATS and for wildlife that cats be kept under control, and I’ve become something of a credible evangelist for that cause in my community. However, the people who I am trying to convert have feelings, too, and do not respond well (like most of us) when our views are characterized as crazy, ignorant, etc. We will get nowhere if we do not work with people who care about cats. Their lobby is huge, as you can see. Show respect, and you just might start making some progress.
Of course I know. I mean the island vs. continent thing.
Antonia – I’m not quite clear what you are asking in your post. Politically, the Hawaiian Islands are part of the US but geographicall seperate from the the contiguous US. BTW, Hawai’i is the bird extinction capital of the world.
Mainland vs island is irrelevant. This is basic knowledge in modern conservation biology:
This is why the layman or animal extremists can’t dictate conservation.
Your comment is simply inaccurate, even according to your own source. While some mainland ecosystems may behave like island ecosystems, most do not, especially when it comes to birds. If you make a list of all bird species extinctions attributed in whole or in part to predation by cats and then check off those that occurred on islands versus mainland ecosystems, I think you’ll see a very clear pattern. Better yet, include a column for the century in which that species went extinct.
Your article for ABC raises some legitimate points, but it also fundamentally misunderstands the problem from a conservation perspective and highlights the lack of coherence on this issue among various opponents of TNR.
For example, you rightly note that:
“Sanctuaries are not economically viable, cannot possibly address the magnitude of the problem, and all too often end up as hoarding situations.”
Yet, as you are well aware, ABC for many years was urging communities to adopt that very approach. In fact, ABC wrote a letter to the City of Los Audubon Society urging them to adopt a sanctuary approach, and they referenced the city of Chico, CA as their success story. However, Chico’s sanctuary approach ran into exactly the issues of mathematical reality that you note above. Rather than acknowledging an error, ABC just pulled the reference from its web site. I would argue that such a PR approach to the problem does a huge disservice to birds. We all have to admit when we are wrong about something so that we can learn from it.
You also make the argument that society should focus on the suffering of individual birds, rather than just populations of birds. That is an animal welfare consideration, not a wildlife conservation consideration, and it stands in sharp contrast to the position that The Wildlife Society has taken on this issue. That position is not just for non-native species, but for native species like deer and wolves as well.
I understand that you’ve taken this approach as a way to counter balance the compassion-based approach taken by cat advocacy groups, but in doing so, you strengthen their position and undermine the conservation argument.
You also have taken a “binary” approach to the problem, which confuses me because it was you who observed in an unrelated (and very good) presentation that we humans gravitate toward binary approaches to complex problems. Not every TNR effort is the same, as your own paper in Conservation Biology makes clear. By lumping every TNR effort and every cat advocacy organization together under the label “bad”, you effectively reduce what should be a dashboard of controls into a single light switch.
This is akin to those who argue that only abstinence should be taught in schools because it is the most effective way to avoid teen pregnancy and STDs. The premise is correct, but the conclusion does not follow. That a significant number of Americans have an aversion to euthanizing companion animals is a scientifically observable facts. You may think these folks “ought” to feel otherwise, but as you said in the same aforementioned presentation, “Science is not normative.”
There are many cat advocacy groups like Alley Cat Allies that do not even discuss population reduction in their mission statements. That is a big problem. HSUS clearly has an interest in population reduction. They recently held an excellent conference on the topic of feral cats which I was sorry that you did not attend. It was anything but old toothless ladies with Tourette’s Syndrome calling people cat killers. Rather most of the speakers had solid wildlife biology credentials and spoke about the need for greater, metric-based accountability.
We need scientists to stay true to objective science, not to get sucked into moral, ideological warfare with feral cat advocates. Some of the agenda driven science is becoming comical. One paper, co-authored by Christopher Lepczyk, suggests that each bird could be argued to have an economic value of $15,000 based on fines allowed for by the MBTA. When that figure is coupled with the 3.7 billion upper range of the Smithsonian study, the result is up to $55.5 trillion per year in economic damage, which is three times our GDP. It is beyond me why other researchers don’t step in an police their own ranks when these wild assumptions are include in peer-reviewed studies.
Let’s figure out what makes any management strategy, lethal or non-lethal, succeed or fail. Then, let’s hold all programs accountable for measurable improvement based on metrics that have meaning from a conservation perspective. Neither the number of cats killed not the number of cats saved from being killed falls into that category.
“City of Los Audubon Society” => “City of Los Angeles”
Its a mathmatical model so the inputs just change – its still accurate for habitat islands or real islands. These days most of the US is habitat islands and feral cats are a significant problem in such a scenario – again naive people should not dictate conservation policy – that’s up to the professional scientists.
“Examples of species that have this problem as a result of fragmentation are bobcats and upland sandpipers. This results in a increased risk of death by predation because the animal might be forced to venture outside it’s patch to find food in order to avoid starvation. Certain predators like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, HOUSE CATS, and crows tend to increase in fragmented landscapes. This is do to them being highly adaptable and being able to take advantage of the resources available to them. high predation in small patches makes death by predation more common for certain species. This is one of the factors that is contributing to the decline of neotropic songbirds in eastern temperate forest.”
“Island biogeographic theory has been applied to many kinds of problems, including forecasting faunal changes caused by fragmenting previously continuous habitat. For instance, in most of the eastern United States only patches of the once-great deciduous forest remain, and many species of songbirds are disappearing from those patches. One reason for the decline in birds, according to the theory, is that fragmentation leads to both lower immigration rates (gaps between fragments are not crossed easily) and higher extinction rates (less area supports fewer species).”
Island biography of US prairie birds:
Habitats are virtual islands especially in the modern US due to over development and when it comes to outdoor cats a large portion of the native wildlife they kill are not birds. They deserve protection just as much as birds.
National Geographic and the University of Georgia have over 2000 of footage of 55 suburban pet cats to prove it. Its video proof of a reasonable sample size, indisputable if not more damning since hunting with a large camera around their neck doesn’t help:
“Not surprisingly, birds made up 13 percent of all kills.
“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than four billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, in the Chattanoogan.”
Syad – I understand the impacts of fragmentation. We are trying to educate local communities about why a companion animal center ought not be built on an ecological reserve, even though it will only consume a fraction of the reserve (which is, of course, a fraction of the original ecosystem). By the way, we’re not getting much help from ABC and TWS and other organizations so fired up about TNR.
More info on that here: http://www.ballona.org/annenberg
The point I am making is that when you and others overstate things in your zeal to make the case against TNR you undermine a more objective approach. Had you simply explained to Antonia that the lines between island and mainland ecosystems are blurred, and that one must focus on the behavior of the ecosystem, rather than its physical geography, I would not have replied. But when we have urban areas like Chicago thinking that urban TNR programs could contribute to modern day bird extinctions, we ought to correct that misperception, not perpetuate it.
Our local grocery store became the local cat community center for feral cats. A couple of people complained, the store manager anncounced he was going to remove the cats, and one would think smoked feral cat meat was going to be found in the deli case. The store reversed policy faster than Audubon on Mr Williams. The cat crazies got so cranked up many of us were were afraid to face the abuse coming to anyone not toting their cat-party line. So only a one sided dialog came about.
Feral cats are a problem. Beside all the cat predation on birds, smalll mamals and herps. leaving cats outside to fend with coyotes, great horned owls, heart worm and even worse, other cats is the real cruelty here. If people love feral cats so much, TAKE ONE HOME. Even Better TAKE TWO! That might help solve the problem
Island biography is well proven mathematical model key to modern conservation biology, it could not be more objective. This isn’t some random anecdotal story or wild estimation, this is the reality of native animals in the US. Its exactly why there are various other feral control programs in place. There is no reason to exclude house cats from such conservation efforts. To do otherwise would lack objectivity.
This is exactly right. This is what people like Ted Eubanks in the earlier thread either don’t understand or don’t want to understand.
The strategy of Alley Cat Allies is to yell the loudest and most often so that their voice is the only one heard. They do not want compromise. They are not interested in finding a common ground “solution”. They are interested in bullying well-intentioned stakeholders into accepting their views for fear of dealing with a horde of shrieking cat people. And it works.
I, for one, am tired of it and don’t feel a single bit of guilt for engaging back. And if there are reasonable outdoor cat advocates out there, they should be at least as ticked off as I am. But I never see that. They seem to be happy to outsource their outreach to intransigent organizations like ACA,
So who are we left to work with?
You are knocking down arguments that I didn’t make. I’m not refuting the theory of Island Biology, I am refuting your use of it to support the significant overstatement that “Mainland vs island is irrelevant.” I certainly never argued that cats should be excluded from conservation efforts.
I share your frustration with Alley Cat Allies. They don’t even list population reduction as one of their core objectives (then again, neither does ABC). Having attended a very thoughtful and ecologically focused conference on feral cats hosted by HSUS, I can tell you that ACA doesn’t speak for all cat advocates. It is a real shame that no one from ABC and other groups attended. There was a lot of criticism of TNR programs that don’t accept accountability.
I strongly disagree with your implication that acting like an ACA in reverse is the appropriate response for any wildlife advocate. Extremism just begets more extremism. It doesn’t balance itself out, it compounds itself.
ACA is thrilled when bird watchers defend Nico Dauphine or Ted Williams, just like Democrats are thrilled when the GOP defends various crazy comments coming from the fringe (and vice versa to be fair).
Acting like a bar brawler just throwing wild punches won’t help birds one bit. We need to define very clear, conservation-based metrics and then work to make all programs, lethal and non-lethal, accountable to those metrics. We can’t accept double standards.
Walter, Ted Williams is not an extremist. Calling him that is buying into the framing of the issue that the actual extremists, ACA, created. Why, exactly, do you think he is an extremist?
Trying to work with groups like ACA or people who get their information from them is impossible. And ignoring them leaves the field open for their propaganda. Not engaging with them and pushing back hard means that they, through being loudest, are the only ones heard.
You misread what I’m saying, Walter. I don’t advocate mirroring their tactics, which involve sheer force and misinformation. I mean that birders should be prepared to engage with facts about the failure of TNR and the true danger of feral cats without. These are not wild punches. These are focused.
Different situations require different strategies, and there’s no one-size-fits-all response to this issue. It I were speaking to a fair-minded and reasonable feral cat issue (such that those exist anymore), I’d certainly be more equivocal. But as I said earlier, I have no guilt in responding firmly to those who are just looking to bully and for cutting through the crap of those who want to bury the issue in lots of fluffy language.
I cannot consider the island/continent thingthat irrelevant. Whether these are islands in the geographical sense of the word of ecological… introduced species made the biggest mess in any kind of isolated, high?y specialized areas. I’ve read things about Hawaii, New Zealand etc. and how introduced species can cause mayhem in places like this. Cannot deny. But you can’t put the same merits to whole continents. I”d like to know, how many birds or other small speices are now extinct in CONTINENTAL AMERICA just because of cats and aboslutely no other human – induced element.. Some serious scientific studies, please.
Sure some of the cat people are extreme, preventing cats even from being neutered or rehomed. But as I’ve fought several of them, it was often reaction to some previous killing. If you just storm into somewhere with “we want all of your cats dead, no exception”, you probably won’t be even allowed to neuter. That’s the reality, face it.
Better stop ranting and try to act together with the more reasonable part of cat people. Like it or not, you need their help. Also against the irrational part of cat world, against those old (usually) ladies, who feed their colonies, take none of them home or into some restricted area, prevent even any attepmt at neutering and vaccination and making mess. Again, usually in fear of “their” cats being killed. In areas, where cats can rally be The Pests – why not raise funds together for getting them behind something like this?
And then possibly go tor the cat’ s reproduction organs in 100% scale. You have people who spend billions worldwide on dying their pets pink and buying them luxury clothes. Aim at these naive pet lovers together. (Ha ha. Naive idea.)
Btw , cats must be trapped to be euhanized as well as to get neutered/spayed. And somehow I havent noticed that cats-to-be-euthanized would enter the box trap more willingly.
Brian, I took 4 abandoned cats home, several more to some other homes. And that’s only the beginning. You took some?:-)
And one small notice from here
While this is an extreme exapmple and cannot be completely transferred to our topic, it really does imply tha things are not always that black-and-white..
“Increased breeding success with aerial 1080-poisoned food induced predator removal
might benefit specific bird populations in the long term. However, I could find only 3
studies reporting on nesting success of 4 bird species after aerial 1080-poisoned food
operations21-23. Two of these 3 studies concluded with no significant differences in
breeding success! For instance, in spite of a high death rate observed for tomtits in
some aerial-1080 operations, the breeding success of tomtits in an aerial 1080 treated
area was not significantly different from that of an untreated area23. The breeding
success of kaka was also not found to be significantly different with 1080 treatment21
Only kereru and robins showed increased breeding success in one to two breeding
seasons following 1080 treatment21, 22. There is no information at all that looks at the
longer term 3-4 year adult lifespan or breeding success of New Zealand’s birds with
aerial dropped 1080-poisoned food. At best, there is only very minimal evidence
regarding longer term benefits of an aerial 1080-poisoned food operation in terms of
Long-term benefits are not actually expected with aerial-dropped 1080-poisoned food
due to the serious unanticipated side-effects that have been observed. A wilderness is
a complex system of many interrelated living beings that depend upon, and compete
with one another, for survival. Disrupting the balance of that system with the
eradication of a pest species can result in serious and unexpected consequences24. The
outstanding breeding capacity of rats, and the complexities of ecosystem dynamics,
means rat populations can recover from over 90% kill rates to levels as much as 5
times higher than before an aerial 1080-poison operation, and remain high for up to 6
years25! Increases in the number of stoats have also been observed in aerial 1080-
treated areas21. Another documented unexpected side effect of aerial 1080 operations
was stoat prey switching from a diet consisting primarily (74%) of rats and minimal
birds (3%) to one consisting heavily (39%) of birds after the 1080-poisoned food
drop26. Bird species recover much more slowly than their rodent predators27. These
unanticipated side-effects observed after aerial 1080 operations indicate increased
predation and decreased breeding success for birds in the longer-term. “
Corey and Nate,
I don’t want to judge him across the board, but when it comes to feral cats, I absolutely believe that Ted Williams is an extremist. I don’t believe that because any cat advocacy organization told me, I believe it because, as a bird watcher, throwing out that kind of “red meat” suggestion (Tylenol) for which there is no viable execution strategy is a distraction from real solutions and does a disservice to the very wildlife he wants to protect.
I had an extensive exchange with Ted about Tylenol on the comments section of his Fly, Rod, Reel column in which he repeatedly defended Woodsman, who was arguing that we should be enlisting street gangs to shoot cats in urban environments. It was bizarre, and the comments have since been removed.
I have often wondered whether Woodsman is really a cat advocate just trying to make wildlife conservationists look bad. I have never understood why folks like Ted Williams and Michael Hutchins would never criticize his rants. I’d be happy to post the whole comments thread from Fly, Rod, Reel here if anyone is interested.
Putting Ted aside, I have been dealing with this issue for years. I did TNR in my neighborhood for a number of reasons. The bottom line is that we got a bunch of cats out of the environment over time. There is one left out of about twenty. We found homes for many of them, some died. The cat advocacy groups that helped us were not “mafia” (and yes, that is the term of an extremist).
I have no problem that other people would might have use lethal control, although I have seen that many people’s bark is worse than their bite when it actually comes to trapping the cats and taking them to be euthanized. What I do object to is people like Ted suggesting I am some kind of criminal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, because I successfully got cats out of the environment using a method that conflicts with his ideological leanings. You never hear ABC or TWS suggest prosecution for people who do nothing, and just leave cats to breed uncontrolled.
Hearing you guys defend the Tylenol comment and say things like “bring it on” is frankly depressing. Why not approach this issue with the same objectivity and discipline that we strive for with bird identification? We don’t decide first what we want the bird to be and then cherry pick field marks that support ID ( or at least we don’t do so intentionally).
ABC has a press release on their site touting a headline that any birdwatcher with a high school education would see as unsound (that famous $17 billion in damage “study”). The underlying argument was first published in 1992. Wy did no bird watcher step up and say “this makes now sense – this is not how the economics of bird watching works”?
It took me a year and a half to get my rebuttal through peer review. Now that it is accepted, it will be interesting to see whether ABC promotes it with as much zeal as they did the original. If history is any indication, they will quietly pull the press release from their web site and just pretend it never happened.
All I can is that groups like Alley Cat Allies thrives on flamethrowers like Ted Williams and Michael Hutchins just like they thrive on Alley Cat Allies. I’d much rather the discussion be about how we hold all management programs accountable to meaningful conservation metrics. Counting the number of cats that get sterilized is not a conservation metric any more than counting the number of cats that get euthanized. Neither of those metrics correlates to the number of cats remaining in the outdoors.
Best Friends Animal Society has a conference title “no more homeless cats.”. That actually is a conservation metric, but the question is whether they are actually making progress toward that goal via non-lethal control. If we look at the available empirical data, the results are probably mixed and depend heavily on various success factors. We could use those factors not just too improve the efficiency of all methods of control, but to determine when one is likely to perform better than another.
Anyway, I have been urging our community of citizen scientists to step back from the polarization for several years now with very little success. I guarantee we’ll be having these same discussions in ten years if we don’t approach the problem differently.
I feel like a broken record here, Walter.
There are different strategies for different situations. You may find me a perfectly reasonable advocate for bird conservation if you met me in real life. In fact, I have been as a member of a local Audubon board who has actually dealt with this problem.
But in a situation where dozens of people are coming to a website in an attempt to disrupt conversation and bully those who want to have a productive discussion, the solution is to marginalize them. You’ll note that the discussion here is much more productive and even-handed. You’ll also not that there are no ACA attack dogs (cats, maybe?) present.
As you know, the actual data shows to a very high degree of certainty that feral cats are a problem. We should not be afraid to wield that data confidently and forcefully. If it comes of as “extremist” to some, well, I’m not really sorry. These ACA types are not going to go away simply by talking sweet to them or ignoring them. In fact, they see that as a “win”. And I won’t apologize for trying to prevent that from happening.
A quick google search shows WL is himself an extremist or at the least an OCD “cat advocate”. Nobody else would waste so much time pushing the same erroneous personal message all over the Internet for literally years on end:
He disingenuously pitches the term objective and yet his argument centers around his own biased personal experience. This is the opposite of objectivity.
The damage done by cats(both to others and themselves) after being returned outdoors is not insignificant and neither are the cost of TNR with confinement needed to address this obvious problem “cat advocates” ignore.
This is why TNR is not regularly practiced on other non-native (or even native) pest species, it makes no rational sense. It also makes no sense to have separate rules for cat and dog owners – cat owners don’t have a right to be more irresponsible.
Science is on the side of conservationists, vets, biologists, and health departments, not “cat advocates” who thinking saying the same thing over and over again is going to change the reality of the situation.
Williams should be permanently fired. He is obtuse and abrasive even before this. Now, advocating ILLEGAL practices is unforgivable. Audubon should distance themselves from this tool immediately and permanently. And I dont even like cats!
Williams IS an extremist, and gives all of us conservationists a bad name.
Hendo, you can call Ted Williams many things but obtuse it not one of them. Also, and this is actually explained in the body of the post, Williams did not advocate for any illegal action.
It is “No More Homeless Pets” not “No More Homeless Cats”. Huge difference. Best Friends has a program called “Feral Freedom”; they aren’t trying to solve the problem by any means other than letting the cats live outside. They acknowledge that they can’t find homes for them and prefer to leave them be:. To quote Best Friends: “Relocation or adoption are not viable options [for outdoor cats].”
All conservation and wildlife groups are not obligated to think the same thing. So what if ABC changed its position on sanctuaries. That’s something that I had encouraged them to do for a couple of years; accept it as progress. But it doesn’t undermine anything. It also really doesn’t matter that The Wildlife Society has a slightly different position on animal welfare considerations.
I’ve been in forthright in arguing that people and institutions need to be able to have the right to remove feral cats without interference, and to have them euthanized, so that they are not released at the location or elsewhere. That provides needed checks and balances. No method will ever rid the mainland of feral cats, so any management has to be ongoing, and taking away the most effective method (permanent removal) is what the feral cat advocates are arguing for. To your credit, you have said in the past that you don’t object to other people doing lethal removal, but somehow you fail to recognize that the groups that you say that conservationists should sit down and work with are actually trying to take away that right of removal (e.g., Found Animals, Best Friends, ASPCA). Conversation with these groups, which categorically reject euthanasia of feral cats, is pointless.
It is possible to both care about animals as individuals and care about species and populations from a conservation perspective (e.g., make decisions about which species get killed on the basis of rare vs common, native vs exotic). That doesn’t undermine the conservation argument.
Our original point in Longcore et al. (2009), to which you objected so strongly, was that there was no rational reason that every cat be considered as an individual, when birds are only considered in the aggregate. You couldn’t understand how people could care about the suffering of individual birds or their presence or lack in a residential neighborhood, and in fact that attitude is evident in your postings. As long as a species doesn’t go extinct, you don’t seem to mind birds getting ripped apart by an exotic predator. We obviously disagree about that. But that doesn’t mean your position is shared by conservation biologists, and it doesn’t mean I have to accept your position as the metric for impacts, either from a conservation or humane perspective. You may not realize this, but I have solid humane credentials in addition to my better-known conservation credentials, having been a consultant to humane groups on issues where conservation and humane objectives coincide for many years (e.g., bird poisons, lead poisoning, best practices for managing native rodents, sport hunting, unethical trapping, shelter policy for wildlife, etc.).
I’ve made this point about animal welfare and conservation considerations in many contexts (wind, communication towers, etc.). Conservationists can care about sheer numbers of birds being killed because of their suffering, and also recognize what species they are and where and what that means for conservation.
But caring about the suffering of birds doesn’t mean I have to be opposed to lethal management of an exotic predator. It is perfectly humane to dispatch a feral cat. It doesn’t cause long-term suffering and in fact to the cat, the experience is the same as being trapped and anesthetized to be neutered. There is no animal welfare problem with euthanizing feral cats, at least in a state like California where the means of euthanasia for domestic animals are carefully controlled.
I’m glad that you want to hold programs accountable for their performance. As you have said online for years, you did a form of ad hoc TNR in your neighborhood, which didn’t change any policies or get in the way of other people solving your feral cat problem another way, because, as you have said, other people could have captured and euthanized the cats. But that doesn’t mean that we should adopt municipal TNR policies that take away those other ways of addressing the problem and legalize and condone feeding of feral cats, simply because people don’t think that feral cats should be euthanized.
That’s why my ABC op-ed was exactly on point relative to the conservation problem. We aren’t fighting the people who want to neuter the cats in their neighborhood, we are fighting the No Kill movement, which wants to take away the ability to catch and kill feral cats because of their ideological opposition to euthanasia and enshrine special rights for cat feeders to care for cats outdoors, because they don’t want them in the shelter. And that is bad for birds, from backyard wildlife habitats to public lands, both from a conservation perspective and a humane perspective. This is why the point of my op-ed, that bird conservationists need to pay attention to animal sheltering legislation, is so important.
Anyone who has been involved with this discussion feels like they are a broken record. I think the problem is that we try to boil many different questions down to one simplistic question: TNR good or TNR bad.
The question that this particular post raises is whether Ted Williams was right to suggest Tylenol as a way to manage feral cats. Putting aside any humane consideration for cats and simply focusing on wildlife conservation, I would argue that the answer is no. The reason is that there is no more viable plan for administering Tylenol on a mass scale than there is for Woodman’s plan to shoot them all.
This is my whole point. The defense of Ted Williams on Tylenol (as opposed to defending him a a writer and asking for this mistake to be overlooked), distracts from more important questions, such as whether cats cause negative ecological impacts (I agree that they do) and whether there needs to be far greater accountability for management programs (I agree that there does).
I am at the point where I’m far more realistic about whether people even want to solve this problem. People like rivalries. They like heated exchanges. They want to be on a side that they can cheer on and have other people cheer them on. But I know that there is a “third team” out there of people who want a more rational discussion focused on metric-based accountability and a scientific understanding of what the key success factors are for a particular program. My hope is that behind all of the sloganeering there are silent visitors to blogs like this that will see that there is more to the issue than “cat haters” vs “cat crazies.”
Good detective work, Syad! How silly of me to have used my full name when I was trying so hard to keep my secret identity as a cat “sleeper agent” secret. You see, I was infected years ago by a very advanced form of Toxoplasmosis that understood that the best way for me to serve my cat masters was to first become a bird watcher and spend many years undercover, trying to blend in with the community, volunteering for bird surveys, and even going on a big year. Then, when the time was right, I was “activated” by the virus to start reading the actual science on the topic, and to blog on message boards and even write a paper for an academic journal.
And it all would have worked, were it not for Syad!
While I recognize that an organization’s written goals don’t always reflect reality, I have to stress the following excerpt from the very PDF you linked to:
“The long-term goal is to decrease and ultimately eliminate cats living outdoors on their own, in the most effective, inexpensive and humane way possible.”
Now, I realize that you strongly disagree with them about how to achieve that long-term goal (and I have my reservations also), but at least they share the important goal of population reduction. The point being that there is spectrum of animal welfare organizations. Best Friends is different than ACA and HSUS is different from Best Friends.
Once an organization establishes population reduction as a core objective, we can take on a role of accountability managers, working with local communities to ensure that whatever control method they adopt, that it actually produces measurable results based on conservation-based metrics. Of course, doing that effectively would require a trust that will take many years to repair if and when we even start to repair it. Folks like Nico Dauphine and Ted Williams haven’t helped. No cat caretaker wants to disclose the location of their cats when they think people are eager to poison them.
As noted above, over many years of banging my head against the wall on this, I have realized that many people just like the rivalry. The idea of a more collaborative approach is as exciting as the idea of the Red Sox and Yankees having tea together.
I think when people look back on this, it is going to be seen as an issue of human psychology, not conservation science. You just can’t have two peer-reviewed studies that, when taken together, suggest that cat predation on birds could cause three times as much economic damage as our entire Gross Domestic Product. All of these sensationalist headlines are starting to trip over each other. Now is the time for objective scientists to start policing their own ranks.
There is no one that would suggest that Tylenol is an effective way to deal with feral cat colonies *in all situations*. I think an argument could be made that special consideration is in order for those feral cat colonies on protected lands that are a threat to species of concern, and that that includes poison provided it is carefully administered and very closely monitored. But that’s an argument for another time…
But my problem with the way you are characterizing this debate stems from your assumption that those most vocal can be slotted into the “cat haters/cat crazies” dichotomy (I assume I’m on team Cat Haterz?).
Look, there is a difference between going to cat blogs and loudly advocating for euthanasia and defending our own turf. I think the first is not helpful and the latter is absolutely justifiable. As I’ve said before, we do have the evidence on our side. Could there be more? Absolutely, but there’s nothing wrong with wielding it confidently and, yes, forcefully in the face of what is effectively a coordinated attempt to bully us off of the issue.
You want rational discussion? Great! Me too! But there’s a pearls before swine aspect of all of this. And you’re not going to get rational discussion from the irrational. And those that think any of us want to kill their pets are, by the very arguments they make, *irrational*. And it’s not their MO to act differently. Simply responding to that with the ridicule it deserves does not make one a “Cat Hater”, just as choosing to be above it all doesn’t implicitly give your argument any more weight.
Personally, I hate the inanity of the arguments. They waste my time that I’d rather be doing something else, like sleeping and working on other projects. But I hate bullies who try to drown out discussion with nonsense more. So I respond, so that *your* “reasoned” approach has a fairer context than the steaming litter box full of cat dung that ACA leaves behind. And for the life of me I can’t understand why there are birders aiming their guns at other birders instead of those who seek to tar us all as pet murderers.
Hi Nate – No, sorry. That is the problem with blog comments, too easily misinterpreted. I wasn’t calling you a cat hater at all. I was saying that the “cat crazies/cat haters” labels are completely counterproductive. Frankly, it is no crime to hate cats or to just not care for them very much. We should stay focused on the impact to native wildlife, not get into judging one set of values vs another.
As to the rest of your comments, I just don’t agree that you balance anything out or defend any turf by taking an ideological stance. The point is to reduce the number of cats in the outdoors. I agree that some fraction of cat caretakers have no real interest in this, but I have spoken with many that do, and who do want to improve the process and make it more wildlife friendly.
If we adopt the Ted Williams / Michael Hutchins approach, we’ll never solve the problem. If we just let Alley Cat Allies control the message with no accountability, we’ll never solve the problem. If we build meaningful coalitions with certain groups, we have a real chance at achieving significant incremental gain. Maybe we can x% more people keeping cats indoors, y% of colony managers focusing more on sterilization and less on feeding, and increase adoption to indoor homes by z%. This kind of progress can add up and make a real difference for our native wildlife.
Anyway, like you, I have way too much on my plate to get sucked into another comments forum, so I’ll (try) to extricate myself now.
One last parting request for any assistance helping our local ecological reserve fend off the construction of a center for cats and dogs within the reserve. It is a local issue that has national implications because it would set a precedent of a government wildlife management agency veering from its mission and allowing non-ecological use of land in exchange for funding.
With regard to Audubon’s stance, I hope everyone takes a moment to read this blog entry from NAS CEO David Yarnold. It takes a great deal of intellectual honesty and humility to reflect on your actions with a truly open mind and the willingness to admit that the first decision or reaction might not have been the right call. In fact it is extraordinary. People and organizations do not readily admit to having missed the mark. But NAS has now done just that, and for that, they deserve kudos.
I urge NAS to re-focus their nocs on birds. That will avert this kind of problem in the future. Put birds in the center of everything – climate change, energy policy, ag policy, toxic substances, land management policy. If NAS becomes bird-centric, I’ll be back as a member after a very long absence and encouraging everyone else to re-join, too. The change of course regarding Ted Williams is a very encouraging sign and may be the silver lining of this episode – a huge wake-up call for National Audubon.
Walter, thank you. Any help needed If you have any idea of how I can help to spread the word.. 🙂
Walter – I guess we have to agree to disagree. Frankly, don’t see addressing the misconceptions of the ACA crowd when they descend en masse to a site like this as a problem. Nor do I see doing so with a little bit of mustard, say, as out of line.
It’s not ideological to address misconceptions. If I have an ideology, it’s to the facts of the issue and if I’m proven wrong by the evidence I’ll change my ideology. Which is a far sight more than any ACA member is willing to do.
I’d say that makes us “right” on this issue, and I don’t think we need to shy away from it.
I saw a hilariously posed Alley Rat Allies troll page but the point it makes is a good one.
Walter, how do you feel about using colored and poisoned grain that cows don’t eat because of the color specially to poison and kill rats? Rats, brought over by Europeans just like cats, are incredibly destructive and unchecked as well.
What’s the difference between poisoning feral rats and feral cats?
I’d like to know.
Your question could be interpreted any number of different ways. You could be looking for an answer based on moral considerations, biological considerations, pharmaceutical considerations, sociological considerations, etc.
However, based on context, I’m going to assume that you think that society is hypocritical for not treating cats and rats alike. George Fenwick of ABC has made this same point, suggesting that the only difference between cats and rats is that they start with different letters.
I think the key to addressing this argument is recognizing that what you think “ought to be” and “what is” are two different things. It is an easily observable fact that our society is generally more fond of cats than rats, and therefore gives them preferential treatment. To argue whether people ought to like cats would like arguing whether people ought to like Justin Bieber. Corey mentioned that he has pet cats and I doubt he has pet rats. Maybe he can explain why one species gets to live in his house with his kids and the other species doesn’t.
Now, we don’t necessarily have to accept existing societal attitudes, but we should be realistic about our ability to influence them. Attitudes toward gay marriage, for instance, have changed dramatically over a relatively short time period. I do not think our society as a whole will ever think of cats the way that they think of rats, and I think efforts toward that end are not only a waste of time and money, but are actually counter-productive in that they insult and alienate the many members of society who hols cats in a higher regard than rats.
Lastly, I’m not sure why this question was directed at me specifically because I haven’t done any moralizing about whether poisoning cats is right or wrong. I personally think it is wrong, but I hold a great many personal views that I don’t expect to be reflected in the position statements of conservation organizations. What I do expect conservation organizations to care about is achieving measurable, real-world progress on important conservation issues. When Ted Williams argues that Tylenol should be part of the equation without putting any actual thought into how such a plan would be implemented (he admits that scientists and veterinarians had to correct him after the fact), he is only promoting his own brand as the “tell it like it is” guy, at the expense of actual conservation progress.
I hope that addresses your question, although you may not agree with my perspective.
You seem to be sincerely trying to understand my actual position rather than creating a straw man version of it, which I appreciate. However, there are still a few misconceptions that I’d like to address:
– I have no problem with conservation organizations having different perspectives. As I have always said, there is a spectrum of views on this topic – it isn’t a binary choice. That is true of animal welfare organizations as well.
– My criticism of ABC re sanctuaries is not that they changed their position, but that they never owned up to their mistake so that we could all learn from it. That the leading bird conservation organization was dead wrong on this issue of cat sanctuaries for five years is noteworthy. Whether George Fenwick and ABC have the credibility to lecture society on how cats should be managed, in light of that poor judgement, is questionable. If they stopped long enough to reflect on their mistake, they might realize that there is a lot that they don’t understand about the issue, and that would help them avoid similar mistakes in the future.
– You have every right to feel compassion towards individual birds and you are incorrect in stating that I can’t understand such compassion. I am simply noting that compassion toward individual birds is not the same thing as preserving biodiversity. I agree that even extirpation of a species at a local level is a biodiversity concern (as I have expressed in the past, specifically referencing extirpation of Cactus Wren from our Baldwin Hills), but that is still different from compassion toward individual animals.
– It is an easily observed fact that the general relationship between bird watchers and birds is very different than the relationship between cat caretakers and cats (and thank goodness for that). I objected (too harshly I concede in hindsight) to your including your personal perspective on that topic in your paper because: 1) It was not a scientific statement but a reflection of your and your co-authors’ personal values; and 2) It ignored a wealth of evidence (eBird, CBC, etc) that bird watchers rarely focus on birds as individuals.
– I occasionally talk to people from some of the groups you mentioned above (Best Friends, Found Animals). While I agree that they are highly unlikely to suddenly endorse lethal control, they are far more open to improvements to, and potentially limitations on, non-lethal control than you have allowed yourself to think. Had you attended the HSUS conference, you could have heard that firsthand.
– You indicate that your goal is only to keep lethal control in the management tool box, not to keep non-lethal control out of the tool box. If so, I think the lawsuit in LA overreached considerably, as we’ve discussed in detail. It is important to differentiate between those two very different goals, because the lines seem to get blurred quite often. Most of the stories relating to TNR that I come across (which is quite many), involve TNR practitioners just wanting to change existing laws so that they aren’t engaging in criminal behavior, not to criminalize lethal control, although I know that there have been examples of that is well.
I’m glad that you were able to influence ABC away from their fixation on sanctuaries. I think it is perfectly reasonable that you want people to pay attention to sheltering legislation. I would simply argue that you and others ought to be just as eager to step in and challenge communities whose lethal control strategies are falling short as those who are contemplating non-lethal control (and the second scenario is often a result of the first).
Walter I think we agree, it is largely the perception of society when it comes to cats. Again I appreciate your ability to articulate yourself, it’s not an often enough occurrence on the internet.
Personally, I have had cats and I also currently own a rat, and the rat is a surprisingly social and gentle animal, hasn’t bit me or urinated on the carpet and asks to be fed, but- I’m not here really to argue the differences or defend rats (which are typically vermin), I think you saw my point and I appreciate the response. I wouldn’t wander out into the forest and try to pet a wild rat anymore than I would a feral cat, but I would absolutely agree that people are more responsive to cats. To me, feral cats and house cats are incredibly different. I personally think that people are attributing aspects of tame house cats to feral cats, who hiss, bite and claw when you try to pick them up, who get in fights with house cats and who leave smells on your porch as they mark their territory.
The Audubon Society was originally created to stop the slaughter of birds, by both ornithologists and the millinery trade. It was a time before cameras, so you needed physical proof to back up your findings. Even Audubon and other renowned ornithologists shot and collected numerous bird species (some who were already rare during their day), and that’s just how it was.
But, even back then some ornithologists argued with the early Audubon Society, saying that to not kill birds was silly. Likely the millinery trade was also incredibly agitated and lobbied against them. Nowadays, people would probably be somewhat disturbed if not upset if someone walked around with a bunch of dead birds pinned to their hats, or if someone was gunning down flocks of birds to compare their features. Personally, I have no issue with people taking specimens to study, at the same time, we have an expanded knowledge and more tools at our disposal.
But back then it took time to get society to feel that killing birds as they were killing them was wrong, and Audubon got heat for their ideas, sort of like they’re getting heat for ideas about cats that aren’t even their own (people are still contributing William’s words as coming from the Audubon Society weeks after). So while I don’t think Tim William’s strategy was particularly wise, I think that in order to change the perception about how incredibly destructive invasive species are, even if their cousins are cute and fluffy and eat out of our hands, they need to be managed better and in order to get that ball rolling, steps should be taken. How far those steps go, well, that’s something that needs to be discussed and studied.
Ted Williams made a bold, I’d say brash, move at opening up such a discussion, and instead of well thought out arguments such as the ones you utilize, he was met with massive piles of steaming poo.
Having a policy about feral cats is a waste of time and money. If you want to save birds check out the number one cause for the decrease in any jeopardized bird species. Loss of habitat. Which is the same thing as saying – too many people.
If the Audubon Society, or any nature conservation entity, is going to get any traction on saving anything – they are going to have to address the real elephant in the room – human overpopulation. Anything other than that is just scapegoating. Going after cats and the cat crazies just makes you a bird crazy. Have the guts to address the real problem.
Yes. Human overpopulation is a problem. What, then, do you propose to do about it?
I personally don’t find finger-pointing to be an effective way to actually address the problem. I certainly don’t see it as having “guts”. Seems like finding a problem without a solution is the easiest thing in the world to me.
I have feral TNR cats in my yard. I LOVE EM. They got rid of the stinkin’ woodpeckers that were constantly pounding on my walls and damaging my home.
They’re also doing a fantastic job of keeping the rodent population under control.
Have you folks ever been to Iowa (or any of a numeber of states out west)? Human overpopulation ISN’T a problem.
I have been to Iowa as well as 51 other countries on this planet. Let me assure you that overpopulation is a problem.
Iowa is perhaps one of the finest examples of how overpopulation IS a major problem. There is very little natural area left in that state because the entire thing has been turned into a food-making factory for the exploding human population. Out west birds and other wildlife are suffering from habitat degradation because of overgrazing by cattle used to feed…humans. Just because you don’t see Wal-Marts and crowds of people doesn’t mean a place isn’t being crushed under the weight of an out-of-control human population.