I am always so disappointed and greatly saddened when I hear of such negative propaganda and, quite frankly, inaccurate statistical references toward (feral) cats and their ”unbelievable” negative impact on wildlife. The latest came in the form of a plethora of news coverage on re-posted “studies” on free roaming cats reported by The Huffington Post on February 1, 2013 “Domestic Cats Kill Billions of Mice-Birds Annually, Study ESTIMATES…”
For the record, I love cats and I love wild life and birds, but once again the cats are not getting a fair shake. Cats are just one of the many contributors to the reduction in bird populations. Humans are much more at fault…pollution, habitat destruction, chemical pesticides abound, wind turbines, window strikes, etc… where are the studies on all of these contributors?! I’m so tired of biased media manipulation honestly. Not to mention, ignorant people who don’t have their cats spayed/neutered in the first place! URGH!!! Why can’t just one of these news organizations do a story on the success stories of TNVR (trap/neuter/vaccinate/release), something I’m very proud to be a part of…the Humane Solution! >^..^<
Here is a great response to this article from a respected member of the WNY community, Carol Tutzauer, Director of Assessment at SUNY Buffalo & Co-founder & President, Buffalo Humane, (www.BuffaloHumane.org) and a no kill advocate in WNY…
Carol Tutzauer’s Response…Every year at this time, these jokers (Peter Marra and others) send out this thing as some sort of new study. It isn’t a study, just a “lit review” (and a bad one at that), not new data. Every year, same bat-time, same bat-channel, they just review the same set of studies OVER and OVER again every year — studies they choose (that tend to produce the results they want). Then they find some schlocky “research journal” that will publish it (usually a weekly, that also allows authors to pay for public access to their work — not exactly the model for upstanding academic journalism).
Nature Communications actually publishes “reject” articles from the journal Nature, does so in a weekly format (not very selective), and makes money by having authors pay for the public to be able to access their article. All this shenanigans is accompanied by the authors generating a press release with links to their “new” study (with paid public access), and the popular media jump on it. The final indignity relates to some of the quotations, where the co-authors and anti-TNR friends quote themselves in the press release, such as this jewel from Peter Marra: “I was stunned at the results.” If Marra is “stunned” by the results of his own research, repeated over and over for the last several years, then he suffers from Alzheimer’s (and no intention of disparaging those brave souls with Alzheimer’s).
Think of this “study” and these jokers as Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day…
Even if you accept any of their figures, they focus on cat predation to the exclusion of deaths attributable to humans, primarily from destruction of habitat. More birds die flying into windows, getting hit by cars, pollution and fossil fuels and pesticide use in agriculture than could ever be killed by cats (and those cats might very likely have died or been killed anyway). I remember the “bird lovers” talking about the cats at Olcott Beach (on Lake Ontario, northern Niagara County). Most of those “bird lovers” were hunters who wanted to go out to shoot birds (and cats). Don’t you think the bird habitat was pretty much destroyed when they put in the marina there for all the fishermen (the ones complaining about the cats)? Sand dunes? Tufts of grasses? All gone, because of people, and no more nesting areas for birds.
Even granting all of this, there’s no way you’ll wipe cats of the face of the earth. And the goal of TNVR is to reduce cat populations, which theoretically would also be good for birds, assuming they kill that many anyway. [And I take a distinctly Darwinian view here -- predation leads to improvement of the species as a whole. But humans destroying habitats isn't quite the same thing.]
For LOTS of stuff and critiques of all these “studies” that the American Bird Conservancy likes to tout, check out the blog, VoxFelina. Here’s a listing of blog entries on the cats vs birds debate: http://www.voxfelina.com/category/cats-and-birds/
Thanks to Carol for providing a different point of view on the issue of Feral Cats and their impact on the wild bird populations. Not to be discounted Carol has quite a background in research…so I think she may just know a little bit about methodology and data collection, particularly, regarding the ”studies” in question. Always two sides to every issue!
Here are a few more intelligent opinions from very reputable organizations in response to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute study on cat predation…
- Francis Battista, Co founder Best Friends Sanctuary: http://blogs.bestfriends.org/index.php/2013/01/31/fuzzy-math-on-cats-birds-clouds-highly-questionable-study/
- Becky Robinson, Co founder Alley Cat Allies: https://www.alleycat.org/alley-cat-allies-responds-to-nature-studys-claims-on-cats-and-birds#.UQ1OMS352Eo.facebook
- The Humane Society of the United States (Veterinary Medical Association): http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2013/02/hsvma_cat_predation_020513.html