Considering the email response we received from the readers of last week's feature, "Taking Aim at Outdoor Cats," many bird lovers recognize the inherent problems brought about by feral and free-roaming cats, and still others were alarmed at the magnitude of the impact outdoor cats have on songbirds and ground-nesting species.
One reader asked for a clarification of the University of Nebraska study that placed the annual economic loss from feral cat predation on birds in the U.S. at $17 billion.
"This leads me to believe songbirds are somehow generating revenue. Can you explain how songbirds generate revenue or do I misunderstand the intent of this statement?"
We can't say precisely what tax bracket nuthatches and house finches are in, or even if they're concerned about a potential increase in the capital gains tax for the wealthy, but the economic value used in the study was placed on birds using a formula based on data indicating that bird watchers spend around 40 cents per bird observed. A different formula was used for game birds.
Another reader offered an observation on roaming felines based on first-hand experience.
"I am a state and federally licensed songbird rehabilitator (who) takes in over 250 birds a year. I would estimate that at least 90% of the injured songbirds I get in are from cat attacks. I try to educate the public, as well as the cat rescuers about the damage domestic and feral cats cause. Sometimes a cat kills more than just a bird - if it was female it may have had nestlings, which will die of starvation or predators."
A newspaper editorial writer who did not want his comments published (we wonder why those newspaper types are always so sensitive-just kidding!) admitted he'd been targeted by spiteful feral-cat advocates after writing about the impact the animals have on native bird populations in New Jersey.
Yet another commenter admitted he takes matters into his own hands, albeit covertly.
"I live on a fairly large rural property, permanently protected by a conservation restriction. However, there is no way I can protect the abundant ground-nesting birds from a nearby neighbor who feeds all-too-many feral cats. Since they are not collared - nor obvious pets - those I trap do not survive. For obvious reasons I do not want my name nor my email address attached to my comments."
Never fear. Your name - and your handiwork - will remain clandestine.
Finally, the longest response we received was from an avowed lover of animals - all breeds and species of them. However, she recognized it's over-zealous humans who are at the core of the feral cat situation, much more that the felines themselves.
"I don't think the problem is cats at all. The problem is people. It has been irresponsible people who have not had their animals spayed or neutered and then once they have more kittens than they can handle, throw them out on the street. Or the people who get a pet, and then once it's inconvenient, discard it."
And, then, she admitted being a journeyman (or woman) in the feral cat trenches, so to speak.
"I have spent years and a lot of money catching feral cats that are too wild to tame and getting them spayed, capturing feral kittens, bringing them home, taming them and getting them the medical attention they need, and then finding them homes where they will be cared for and kept indoors (hopefully)."
Whether your personal views of feral and free-roaming cats tend to shadow her, or perhaps lean more toward our undercover trapper friend, we wager you'll appreciate her use of a verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," to close her missive to The Birding Wire.
"He Prayeth best, who loveth best; All things great and small; For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all."
Editor, The Birding Wire
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