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CATS: Beloved pets are decimating wildlife

Letter by Dana W. Burt, Tacoma on Feb. 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm with 13 Comments »
February 13, 2012 2:12 pm

Re: “Dial C for cat” (Bill Hall column, 2-11).

I normally enjoy Hall’s column. Unfortunately, this one is so far from reality that I must respond from a naturalist’s point of view.

To be blunt, cats directly kill 500 million wild birds a year in America alone. They also kill millions more indirectly. All the proof you need is to observe any meadow adjacent to a new housing development.

Before people and their cats arrive, a meadow is a healthy environment that provides much-needed habit and forage for birds. Before long (a few years) trees will have filled in the meadow. This is because of the loss of rodents which the cats happily eradicate.

Mice eat the new shoots of trees that will otherwise grow to maturity. This assures the change from meadow to forest which assures the loss of many species of wild birds that find their living in open meadows.

It is happening everywhere. It is one of the reasons that the Western bluebird is in serious decline.

We love our pets. We love nature. We, as stewards of the earth need to find a more reasonable balance.

(Burt is a volunteer naturalist with Metro Parks Tacoma at Snake Lake Nature Center.)

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. Must have been a slow news day for the TNT to waste space printing the Bill Hall column, 2-11.

  2. itwasntmethistime says:

    I don’t like cats, but I like rodents less. Go kitty!

  3. Domestic cats belong indoors. Feral cats need to be controlled.

  4. NWflyfisher says:

    500 million wild birds/year as a direct result of cats? WOW! They kill millions more indirectly? Double WOW!! I’m interested in knowing where you got your stats from; I’d like to see the raw data for myself and learn how the data was collected. I would appreciate it if you would please cite your reference for this.

  5. tree_guy says:

    I found the information you sought NWflyfisher at Audobonmagazine.org. The author is Ted Williams. I didn’t read the entire article, it’s pretty long. But I suppose if you took an estimate of 100M cats and assumed that each one killed 5 birds per year it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine the 500m bird kill estimate. I’ve witnessed lots of these kills. The other day my neighbors cat walked past me with a bewicks wren in his mouth. A stupid cat killing a WREN for crying out loud!

  6. flyfisher — doublewow! do some research your own self. posting your opinion on someone else’s opinion does nothing to advance the conversation…

  7. NWflyfisher says:

    An article in a magazine doesn’t really sound like a credible source of statistical data to me? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos076.htm) there were 59,700 veternarians employed in the USA in 2008. Performing enough veternary autopsies per year on dead wild birds to determine that 500 million of them were a direct result of cats as the cause of death sounds like an awful lot to me. How about you?

  8. Ms Burt, nowhere is safe for birds anymore the U.S.Fish and wildlife permits hunting @ the Nisqually wildlife refuge. which is suppose to be a place where wildlife can go to without being killed by mean others than the course of nature

  9. alindasue says:

    “Before people and their cats arrive, a meadow is a healthy environment that provides much-needed habit and forage for birds. Before long (a few years) trees will have filled in the meadow.”

    Birds (and rodents) also need trees as much-needed habitat. It is normal over the course of time for meadows to be supplanted with forests. The rodents don’t eat THAT many tree seeds and seedlings.

    I won’t argue that bird populations have been affected since PEOPLE and their domestic cats and dogs have moved in, but that has been as much from our propensity as a society to poison everything we consider in our way (such as bugs, weeds, mice) as from anything the cats are doing.

    Those toxins enter their food stream and upset the insect/rodent/bird balance. Remember, that’s how DDT nearly eradicated the bald eagles at one point.

  10. The numbers being bandied about are rather simplistic. And…just where are house cats roaming on wetlands?

    Anyone have any numbers for the population explosion amongst rodents and birds if we removed cats as predators, and how that would lead to starvation in these populations?

  11. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Animal population control is a serious issue. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department uses regulated and controlled hunting to manage a variety of wildlife species.

    I’d guess a two week cat hunting season sounds about right.

  12. alindasue says:

    BigSwingingRichard said, “The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department uses regulated and controlled hunting to manage a variety of wildlife species.”

    That would never have been necessary if our society hadn’t deemed their natural predators as “pests” and started killing them off to begin with.

  13. NWflyfisher says:

    jellee: You said: “flyfisher — doublewow! do some research your own self. posting your opinion on someone else’s opinion does nothing to advance the conversation…”

    Not to be obtuse, but I’ve read my post that you refer to several times and can’t see where I expressed an opinion of any sort. I only asked questions. Perhaps you would be so kind as to point out the opinion in that post you refer to?

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