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Wildlife and TNR

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Trap-Neuter-Return as a method of controlling and caring for feral cat populations continues to undergo explosive growth in popularity. More and more communities see TNR as a way out of their hopelessly overcrowded shelters and the increasing number of calls to animal control about stray and feral cats. Stopping the birth of cats on the streets through TNR means lower stray intake rates for shelters, less competition for homes for healthy, adoptable cats already in the system, less euthanasia for all cats and cost savings for animal control. While still not fully recognized as such, TNR is one of the no-kill movement's most powerful tools.

Yet for all its well-documented advantages (see "The Proof Is In - TNR Works!"), opposition to TNR exists and is making its voice ever louder. Among the main opposition groups are organizations who claim to represent the interests of wildlife. They place the blame for the decimation of native species squarely at the paws of feral cats, whether it's the massive killing of birds, the threatening of endangered rodent species, or the poisoning of sea otters from cat feces running off into the ocean. According to these organizations, TNR should be outlawed because it perpetuates and encourages feral cat colonies and thereby increases predation and other ills.

For example, the alleged impact of ferals on wildlife is the cornerstone of the American Bird Conservancy's "Cats Indoors!" campaign. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) advocates killing feral cats in large part because of wildlife predation. The New Jersey Audobon Society opposes emerging local TNR programs based on its estimate that feral cats kill 42 million birds a year in the state. Whatever their accuracy, these arguments cannot be taken lightly. The fight against feral cats by wildlife organizations led to the recent ban of TNR and feral cat colonies on most public lands by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission. A similar ban was recently proposed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, but fortunately was defeated.

So far, feral cat advocates have tried to counter the wildlife predation argument primarily by engaging in a kind of point-counterpoint. We argue feral cats are being made into scapegoats because there are multiple other, more substantial causes for wildlife loss, such as habitat destruction by humans, glass windows, cell towers, etc. We discredit the studies faulting the cats for wildlife loss and advance those studies which are more favorable to our position. Basically, what's evolved is a "cats vs. birds" fight and, in any given instance, whoever has more power or can generate more public support wins.

It is true there are many causes for wildlife loss more destructive than feral cats and studies which claim bird losses in the tens, even hundreds of millions are usually scientifically flawed and based on dubious assumptions. But making these points with the public is an uphill battle, because it's natural for people to believe cats kill birds and mice and to simply accept the wildlife groups' numbers. Engaging in point-counterpoint also misses the most persuasive argument that TNR has, which is it doesn't really matter whether the wildlife groups are right or not!

Let's go them one better. Let's assume feral cats annually kill 100 million birds in New Jersey, poisoned all the otters along the California coast and are about to wipe out every endangered species west of Africa. If we theoretically agree with the wildlife advocates, then the question becomes, what are you going to do about it? What's the solution for the growing feral population? How are we going to stop there from being so many feral cats who supposedly kill so much wildlife? Here's the big secret - the wildlife groups don't have a realistic answer.

When pressed, which they aren't often enough, the wildlife people will argue for some variation of trap and remove as the way to end wildlife predation by ferals. When you ask what we're supposed to do with all the removed ferals, some like PETA will come right out and say kill them, while others dance around the issue and say kill them, tame them, stick them in sanctuaries, whatever you do, just get rid of them. A good example is the recent article in Best Friends magazine in which Linda Winter, director of the "Cats Indoors!" campaign, is quoted as saying the ferals can be adopted, euthanized or set up in sanctuaries on private property, empty suburban lots or abandoned places. ("Living in the Gray Zone," Best Friends (Nov/Dec 2003), p. 15.)

The notion that a substantial portion of the tens of millions of feral cats in this country can somehow be removed from the environment is patently absurd. If we know anything for certain by now, it's that trap and remove doesn't work on a community-wide basis to reduce feral numbers. There are too many feral cats, too few animal control officers, and almost no volunteers who will give their time to catch cats so they can be killed. Even if the resources were available for large-scale removal, feral population dynamics and the constant abandonment of domestic cats usually result in removed cats being quickly replaced by new ones, anyway. Trap and remove, the traditional approach to feral cat control for decades, has resulted in the current dilemma. It's a complete and total failure and the wildlife organizations are backing a proven loser.

TNR, on the other hand, has an excellent track record in reducing feral populations when implemented on a large scale. While it leaves feral cat colonies in places where some wildlife may be killed, fewer cats over time means less predation. Most significantly, nothing else works! When it comes to effective feral population control, TNR is the only game in town. Ironically, and sadly, by throwing up obstacles to TNR, the wildlife groups are trying to take away the only effective technique available to lower the cats' population, which means there will be more ferals and more wildlife killed.

As feral cat advocates, we need to get straight to the heart of the matter and not settle for disputing studies or arguing others are more to blame when it comes to wildlife loss. We need to point out, again and again, that ultimately the wildlife and TNR organizations want the same thing - fewer feral cats. The wildlife groups have no realistic way to get there. We do.


post #2 of 9
Nice job! This is very well written and has great (and very sad) information.

It amazes me the PETA wants to kill feral cats. How the heck does that make sense???
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
And I keep reading these wildlife sites that are anti TNR and want the cats rounded up to be "adopted" or "humanely euthanized"....UGH!!! I KNOW we are making a difference...but there is soo much to do and people want a quick turnaround.

post #4 of 9
In my mother's community in central Florida a group tried to start a TNR program. They were quickly shot down by very vocal "animal lovers" who claimed that TNR was cruel. This group managed to convince city officials that they would be sued for animal cruelty if they allowed TNR to be implemented, so it was not allowed!!!

The idiocy of some people just floors me!
post #5 of 9
Great article - thanks for sharing!
post #6 of 9
Well wriiten article!
I guess these groups who are against TNR never thought of other reasons why birds are being killed and the poisoning of the ocean for the sea otters. Lets see, I am sure cars kill more birds than the feral cats, plus the oil that leaks from all our vehicles gets into the waterways as well. Oil can pollute very large amounts of water. Another very big problem, to me a very large environental problem, is the use of all the "chemical lawn treatments" that are so popular. Does anyone realize what all these pesticides and chemicals are doing to our wild life? I mean, who cares if you have bugs in your grass, that is THEIR home and where they belong. I can remember when I was a kid, in the summer, you would see thousands of fireflys at night. To a child, that was one of the coolest things to see. But now, I am lucky to see ANY and I live in the same area. My point is here, That I have no doubt that the feral cats do kill birds and other wild life, but they are NOT the cause of the declines. It is our fault, the human race. We have to have that perfect lawn (not me, I use no poisons on my grass), we have to have bigger gas guzzling vehicles, like SUVs and trucks(I drive a car) and god forbid if there is some type of bug in the grass or yard, we must kill it. We, the human race, destroy everything.
post #7 of 9
Katie - that is such a great article. I was so pleased when they wrote to say it was up. (They included a link to SPA in their "links" section )

It is SUCH a great point. The cats are there. How best to deal with them?

What completely puzzles me is that the arguments against euthanization as a policy of removing the feral cats are so strong - pro-TNR or not. Euthanization simply doesn't work. TNR Does Not Create the Cats
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
I don't get the whole "remove and euthanize them" attitude. We are all working towards the same goal anyways. I found this on Animal People and I had to share it:

TNR success
TNR success Accompanying is information about our use of a $2,500 grant from the city of Folly Beach, North Carolina, to assist residents in sterilizaing their pets and to support our Folly Beach feral cat TNR program. TNR has been very successful at Folly Beach, which is a bird sanctuary, and the program has not hurt our bird population. I am appalled at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and their recent call for the destruction of feral cats in Florida wildlife habitat. This was a typical bureaucratic government response to a problem caused by human development, destruction of habitat, and use of pesticides. We have accomplished more to reduce feral cat populations, protect habitat, and control rodents (who menace ground-nesting birds] through TNR than can ever be achieved by means of shooting, trapping, and killing. My mother, Ellie Booth of Hobe Sound, Florida, has worked for the past 15 years to save, sterilize, release, and feed and care for feral cats on Jupiter Island. Her original two feral cat colonies have all passed on, with no new cats in those areas. With Maris Sine, who established Domino's House for Feral Kittens, my mother cofounded the Hobe Sound Animal Rescue League. Through their work, for the first time in many years, no feral kittens were born this year on Jupiter Island.

--Carol Linville, Pet Helpers, 1430 Folly Road Charleston, SC 29412 Phone: 843-795-1110

EMAIL: adoption@pethelpers.org

***Yet another sign that TNR IS WORKING**


P.S. I've only seen 2 groups that are really anti TNR right now...Florida Fish and Wildlife and a Wildlife group in Washington State (you should read what they say...**rolls eyes**).
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Date: 030907
From: http://www.nj.com/newsflash/jersey/

Associated Press, 9/7/03

Phillipsburg - After spending years trying to get stray cats off the
streets, a few New Jersey towns have decided the best approach might
be leaving them where they are.

Around the state, dozens of programs corral feral cats, neuter them
and put them back out on the streets. Most are run by animal lovers,
but a few municipal governments are trying them too.

Proponents say the "trap, neuter and release" method, or TNR, heads
off rapid growth in the stray cat population, and neutered cats are
less likely to fight and spray to mark their territory.

"So many towns use the 'catch-and-kill' approach, and it just doesn't
work," veterinarian Robert Blease told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "The
cats breed so fast, the towns can never get ahead of the problem."

Opposition often comes from local health officers and
conservationists including the National Audubon Society, which objects
to the strays' tendency to hunt songbirds.

In Phillipsburg, hundreds of stray cats roamed the streets. The mayor
and animal control officer favored trapping the felines, bringing them
to a pound and putting to death any that went unclaimed.

Blease, founder of Common Sense for Animals, suggested neutering and
releasing them instead, and the town took his advice four years ago.
The town's stray cat population dropped by 350 in the first year, he
said, and complaints about the animals have trailed off.

Residents also are more likely to report strays, Blease said.

"People used to be afraid to call because they thought the town would
come catch the cat and euthanize it," Blease said. "Now they don't
hesitate. They know the cats are going to live."

In Cape May, residents are required to register with the city before
feeding feral cats. The city helps trap the cats, neuter and vaccinate
them, and then returns them to the streets.

Those who register are provided with feeding stations and small
shelters built by state prison inmates.

"We were looking for a solution to our cat problem, and what we found
was that it cost us less to do this than to trap them and euthanize
them," said John J. Queenan, Cape May's code enforcement director.

Not every town is as amenable, and some programs operate quietly for
fear they will be shut down if discovered.

In 2001, the most recent statistics available, more than 65,000 cats
were taken to shelters in New Jersey and nearly 32,000 were

A 30-member task force appointed by Gov. James E. McGreevey is
studying ways to save thousands of animals from being euthanized each
year. The group is expected to make its recommendations by March.

* * *

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