How should you get rid of stray cats?
According to the American Bird Conservancy, the commonly praised method of "Trap Neuter Release" may be a good option for cats, but it definitely is not for birds.
Call this one an animal lover's conundrum. Cat lovers certainly don't want to see stray cats killed, and feral cats are often unadoptable -- more wild than domestic. Trap Neuter Release programs are seen as a humane answer to the dilemma, since they stop feral colonies of cats from reproducing, but allow them to live out their natural lives (usually supported with cat food by a local volunteer).
But the American Bird Conservancy argues that the technique "is failing to substantially reduce cat numbers despite advocates' claims, and is contributing to the deaths of millions of birds each year, including endangered species."
"Feral and free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of our nation's birds each year, putting additional pressure on the populations of many species that are in decline," said Steve Holmer, the group's director of public relations, who produced a new short video on the subject, which argues that cats should be captured, neutered and then sheltered -- in an adopted home or a cat sanctuary. Here's how it describes the video:
"The film highlights two examples where the technique has been used: one, at Ocean Reef, a gated, private residential community in the Florida Keys; and one at a public park in Miami. The Ocean Reef program is widely hailed as a model for TNR programs nationally, though it is quite different from most, having full-time paid staff and veterinarian care twice weekly.
"Despite this huge investment in resources and restricted access to the colony by the public so that cat abandonment is limited, 500 cats continue to roam the community fifteen years after the program began. In the more typical case of A.D. Barnes Park in Miami, the cat population at the colony has grown since the TNR program run by volunteers was launched."
Following years of similar reports from conservation groups like the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy, the Interior Department this year released a report, concluding that one in three North American birds is imperiled. Feral cats are only one of many threats to wild U.S. birds -- threats range from habitat loss both here and throughout North and South America, pesticides and other contaminants, climate change and sometimes very unique ecological threats. (Take the case of the red knot, a shorebird that migrates all the way from Tiera del Fuego to the Arctic and back each season, stopping along the U.S. mid Atlantic coast to fatten up for the rest of its flight. They feast on horseshoe crab eggs more than anything, leading to a long-term political squabble as conservationists have tried (with success, recently in Maryland to limit commercial fishing of horseshoe crabs).
You can do something to help birds close to home. If you have a cat, it's best for local birds to keep it indoors (even a well-fed cat can kill a bird a day, according to the American Bird Conservancy video). With gardening season upon us, it's a good time to take action to help the birds in your backyard. The National Audubon Society and The Daily Green teamed up to provide 25 bird conservation tips anyone can do, including 15 tips for making your garden friendly to birds and other wildlife.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.