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HUNTING: The real bird killer is domestic house cat

Letter by Clair E. Bolender, Gig Harbor on March 29, 2012 at 11:08 am with 28 Comments »
March 29, 2012 11:41 am

Re: “Groups want ban on lead” (TNT, 3-26).

Since 1991, non-lead shot has been a requirement for all waterfowl hunters, and the incidences of lead poisoning has decreased. Those who are proposing non-lead bullets for all shooting and hunting are anti-gun or anti-hunting advocates.

If their concern was really for birds they would target the real problem, which is cats.

According to the Wild Bird Conservancy website, there are approximately 77 million domestic house cats in the U.S. A conservative estimate of one bird kill per month per cat would put the annual wild bird loss at 1.8 billion, give or take a few million. Add to that the feral cats, of which there may be even more and which have to hunt every day for their food, and the numbers become really astounding.

Not only are songbirds affected, but also hawks, owls, falcons, weasels, foxes and other carnivores that rely on moles, voles, mice, lizards and snakes; they have to compete with house cats for their sustenance.

Isn’t it ironic that those who are so concerned about swans are just as likely as anyone to be providing food, shelter, health care and love to a vicious and efficient hunter of wild birds?

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Leave a comment Comments → 28
  1. You miss the point. Ammunition is easy to change and regulate and doing so would make a difference. Cats are another problem and it will take a lot of education to make people aware of the threat they present.

  2. Pecksbadboy says:

    Oh and lead shot does not fall in the water and kill fish or wounded birds that die and eaten by owl,foxes, eagles and “moles, voles, mice, lizards and snakes” die of lead poisoning.

    Please look at the total picture not just the NRA one.

  3. Theefrinker says:

    Cats are just following the natural order of things though. They don’t have guns, iPads, cars, or deep-fried butter; humans are the only ones that mess things up.

  4. LornaDoone says:

    So, because cats kill birds, you don’t want to eliminate lead shot?

  5. Clair, we need to reintroduce the coyote. Where coyote’s are present, there are few feral or even outdoor cats and little or no cat predation of birds. Coyotes will eat a sick or injured bird on the ground, but go after rodents much more quickly.

    Coyote are at least native to the area, while housecats are not.

    That will solve the lead shot problem, won’t it?

  6. Horseinaround says:

    Folks, it’s the natural order of elimination. Barn or feral cats are great rodent population controllers. Out here on the Key Penn, once in a while a Baldie takes off with one of those kitties who’s unaware of the overhead predator. What comes around….

  7. alindasue says:

    tuddo,

    What do you mean “reintroduce”? We still have coyotes in the area. I’ve seen them.

    As for feral cats… Horseinaround had it right. They are both predators and prey.

    Regardless, lead shot is still a problem that needs to be controlled.

  8. alindasue, I’ve seen one, also, but Animal Control will come and take them away as a threat, but will not respond to a call about a feral cat.

    My post was just facetious, anyway. Even if cats killed a majority of swans, which I could not find anywhere, lead shot in the wild on public or private lands needs attention. On indoor shooting ranges if laws require hazardous waste cleanup of the sites, that is another matter.

    The generalization about being anti-hunting if you are anti-lead shot and known toxins in other ammunition is just a misleading diatribe, as is the generalization that you can’t also be against feral or wandering nuisance cats.

  9. m9078jk3 says:

    What we need are more bobcats introduced especially near Point Defiance Park,South Tacoma especially around wooded areas to control the heavy infestation of highly destructive raccoons.As to feral cats they’re great for controlling destructive rodent populations around private residences.

  10. jamesv317 says:

    Birds taste great once you pick out the buckshot.

  11. Frankenchrist says:

    Isn’t lead shot already banned just about everywhere? Banning lead bullets is a bad idea. It would result in more wounded animals until an adequate substitute is found.

  12. nwcolorist says:

    I’m very appreciative of my cats. Yes, they do snag a sparrow once in a while, but they also keep the rodents at bay. And I’m talking about the big ones that lurk on the fringes.

  13. averageJoseph says:

    More Coyotes.

  14. Frankenchrist, lead shot has been banned for waterfowl for a while (1991). The Fish and Wildlife Service only recently banned it for controlling nuisance birds like crows and grackles (2011).

    The NRA is opposing all efforts to ban it for game bird hunting, like doves, or for trap shooting, target shooting, etc, calling it an attack on the Second Amendment.

    Hence, the letter writer’s statement that people who are against spreading lead shot all over our prairies, ranches and farmlands are anti-hunting. Typical NRA propaganda.

    I used to love quail hunting and used steel shot. I got my share and could compete with anyone using lead shot. A little more expensive, not much. My Second Amendment rights were never violated because I used steel shot.

    My eyesight now is not so good, so I just go along for the ride.

  15. btw, the NRA says there is no credible scientific evidence that lead shot causes problems. Many NRA members believe the NRA over scientists and some still continue to use lead shot for nuisance birds even tough it is illegal.

    I know, since many of my relatives still shoot lead shot on their farms and ranches. Grackles are the rats of the air in Texas. Small cannons, remotely-fired shotguns and other devices are needed to keep them away from crops and fields. Tons of lead shot still go out every night in Texas and many other places.

  16. pantomancer says:

    Morning Tuddo. Would you help me and insert a link to the NRA’s stance on lead shot?

    Thanks.

  17. http://www.nrahuntersrights.org/Article.aspx?id=5289

    This one is specific to Iowa, because that was the most recent campaign.

  18. pantomancer says:

    Thanks. It’s only fair to point out tho that ”
    The Commission has taken a page straight out of the anti-hunting groups’ playbook to discourage hunting through traditional ammunition bans. Anti-conservation fanatics failed at the federal level after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)” under President Obama “rejected their lead-ban petition and have now placed their focus on Iowa by taking advantage of a fledgling hunting season. This traditional ammunition ban is designed to price hunters out of the market and keep them from taking part in traversing Iowa’s fields and forests after the historic dove hunting legislation that you signed into law this year. By taking this action, the Commission is blatantly subverting the will of the legislature, which thoroughly debated the lead issue and overwhelmingly rejected a ban on tradition ammunition.”

  19. averageJoseph says:

    I’m betting the environmental impact from those AlGore bulbs is worse than the traditional bird shot.
    Too bad tho, there wasn’t a scientific environmental impact study conducted about the bird shot.

    :o

  20. pantomancer, is everything in the world, whther it fits the NRA’s agenda or not, the personal failing of Obama?

    Congress put in the law quite some time ago that “ammunition” cannot be restricted or regulated except by Congress based on NRA lobbying. Obama did try out a rule that would have prevented lead shot in the most egregious areas, where it had been shown to affect certain migratory colonies.

    The Justice Department testified that Congress would have to do that, not the administration through rule-making. That is the area of the letter you highlighted. It wasn’t because Obama made a decision not to attempt to amke a positive change like the NRA is attempting to say to try to make it look like “fanatics” are the only ones concerned about species dioe off and lead poisoning in animals as well as humans.

    So, we are at the state-by-state stage, since the NRA has a stranglehold on Congress.

    I am a big 2nd Amendment supporter, but I do not think the NRA has a solid case that this is a Constitutional issue. Just because copper or steel or other shot and bullets may be slightly more expensive, that has nothing to do with the right to bear arms.

    I will take a page from the far right and say, “Where in the Constitution does it say that the right to use lead shot is a protected right?

    averageJoseph, the NRA also wrote the rule that said no money could be spent by the government on general environmental studies of lead shot. Specific studies by states have shown lead shot and lead fragments are the direct cause of high levels of lead in people who eat wild venison, and several states have warnings to not let young children or pregnant women eat wild venison shot with lead bullets.

    Private studies have also shown direct correlation and harming of species, but those are the ones that are disparaged by the NRA because they are not large studies in scope.

    So, we have the typical ruse used by the far-right and the NRA in particular – deniability because of huge donations and lobbying power, not because of any real science.

  21. averageJoseph says:

    Pretty much any type shot will harm what ever it hits. LOL

    The NRA has no authority to enact legislation.

    The current EPA is Obama’s, they rejected the petition.

  22. If cats are such good bird killers and lead shot is going away, I propose to invent a “cat gun” which would fire the cat into the sky where it could grab the bird of choice and then land on all fours. I haven’t figured out how to make the cat bring the bird back without eating it, but I’m working on it.
    Maybe a retrieval dog of some sort……?

  23. averageJoseph says:

    S2E, YES!

  24. I haven’t figured out how to make the cat bring the bird back without eating it, but I’m working on it.
    Maybe a retrieval dog of some sort……?

    Just have to get the right cat. Our cat used to line up her kill on the patio – one day there were 5 voles all in a neat row.

  25. spungamy says:

    “Isn’t it ironic that those who are so concerned about swans are just as likely as anyone to be providing food, shelter, health care and love to a vicious and efficient hunter of wild birds?”

    I just wanted to point out that despite the author’s original comments, cats are not vicious hunters. Efficient, yes; they are carnivores that are built to feed themselves by catching and eating prey. This does not mean that they are vicious, any more than a human who hunts for meat is vicious; it just means that they are good at what they do. Humans like to be the top predator and some enjoy slandering the other predators out there, but being a skilled hunter does not imply a moral failing in a cat.

    Part of the problem with domestic cats in our society today is an imbalance. If they were part of the normal eco-system then they would be controlled both by the amount of prey and also by larger predators (such as the coyotes others mentioned earlier). Since they are supported by humans they have an artificially large population that is greater than the local prey can reasonably support, especially with other carnivores in the area. As someone who cares about the environment, I support not poisoning it with lead, and do not feel that this is an automatic anti-hunting measure (as others have pointed out, get different ammunition). As someone who cares about both cats and the other animals living around me (including, yes, songbirds), I have 2 cats that are indoor only; since I have gotten them I have not let them out of the apartment except in a cat carrier, they are both fixed so as to control the feline population, and the only bird hunting they do is in their imaginations as they look out the window. I encourage others to take similar measures, as well as fix-and-release measures to control feral cat populations (which to my understanding is more effective at controlling feline population growth than simply euthanizing them). I fail to see why I cannot support at the same time limiting or halting the use of lead shot and also cat population control. Why does it need to be either/or? I also disagree that I have to choose between caring about songbirds and caring about cats. Wise pet stewardship can do both.

  26. Frankenchrist says:

    Thanks Tuddo. Is the letter writer confusing “bullets” with “shot?”

  27. Frankenchrist, in some areas shot is the problem and in some bullet fragments. The condor, for example, feeds on carrion, and lead fragments from bullets are the problem that cause the programs that are trying to bring them back to capture them and leach out the lead every few years so they can survive.

    Hunters field dress a deer or other game and discard the entrance wound and entrails. Bullet fragments abound in those remains, and carrion birds get sick and die. Powerful acids send the lead into the body and brain very quickly. In humans, a few lead fragments from bullets seem to cause problems only for children and expecting mothers.

    Adults in Wyoming who eat an above-average amount of wild game in their diet have a high level of lead in their systems, about the same as people working in smelters that use lead. The levels are still below the range where chelation is necessary to rid the body of lead. There has been a effective campaign there to teach people not to let young children eat wild game killed with lead because it can cause problems with a developing brain.

    The movement to ban all lead covers both shot and bullets. Some people make “bullet” a generic term that covers both. Since the letter was talking about birds in general, I thought that is what the writer did, so I talked about both.

    The Obama administration, when it tried to regulate lead shot, tried to say that Congress meant “bullets” when it said only Congress could ban lead “ammunition”, but that argument didn’t fly. So I guess “ammunition” would be the legal term that covers shot as well as bullets.

  28. There are alternatives to lead bullets. Bismuth, with copper jackets is the best and replicates lead weight very well, but copper and zinc can be used for target shooting. The issue is greater cost.

    In the two areas where condors are being reintroduced, California has a ban on lead bullets in sensitive areas, which has worked only minimally. Arizona gives coupons to hunters that reduce the cost of alternative bullets to that of lead. That seems a sensible approach. The income that pays for this is from licenses and fees hunter’s pay, not from taxes.

    The range of condors is great, however, and hunters may not realize they are harming those magnificent birds.

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