Wisconsin hunters, birders vote to shoot cats
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2005:
MILWAUKEE–A brown tabby named Junior and three unidentified
cats found shot on a road near a Sheboygan cemetery on April 11 were
apparent early casualties of a Wisconsin Conservation Congress
proposal to allow hunters to shoot feral cats. On April 11 the
statewide Conservation Congress caucuses ratified the proposal,
6,830 (57%) in favor, 5,201 (43%) against.
Junior, normally an indoor cat, escaped on Easter Sunday,
April 3, from the home of Kirk and Liz Obear, and their daughters,
ages 9 and 12. They put up posters and searched for him. A neighbor
found his remains, and the remains of the other cats, while walking
her dog about a mile away.
Before shooting cats becomes legal in Wisconsin, the
proposal must be formally endorsed by the Wisconsin Natural Resources
Board, which was to consider it on May 13. The Wisconsin
Legislature would then have to pass it in the form of a law.
Governor Jim Doyle would have to sign the law.
“I don’t think Wisconsin should become known as a state where
we shoot cats,” Doyle said.
“State senator Scott Fitzgerald, co-chair of the
Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee, said he will ‘work
against any proposed legislation to legalize shooting feral cats,'”
reported Ryan J. Foley of Associated Press.
“It’s not the responsibility of the DNR to regulate cats,”
added Natural Resources and Transportation Committee chair Neal
Any Wisconsin voter could attend the Conservation Congress
meetings and cast a ballot, but cat lovers mobilized too late to
overcome the “home field” advantage of hunters and birders.
“Attendance at the Conservation Congress hearings was 13,281,
more than twice the number who showed up last year,” reported Meg
Jones of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “The 20-year average is
about 7,000,” Jonwa wrote, “though more than 30,000 attended in
1999,” the year that the caucuses voted to start a mourning dove
Debate over hunting mourning doves threatened to split the
traditional political alliance of hunters and birders. Hard feelings
and litigation lingered for more than a year after the dove season
finally started in 2003. The proposal to declare an open season on
feral cats reunited the factions.
The cat-shooting proposal was put before the Conservation
Congress by Mark Smith of La Crosse. Formally, the proposal was to
designate feral cats as an “unprotected” species. They are already
“unprotected” in Minnesota and South Dakota.
“I look at feral cats as an invasive species, plain and
simple,” Smith told Associated Press.
The Smith proposal was not formally endorsed by the Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources, but DNR staff in frequent media
statements played up the alleged threat to wildlife from feral cats,
inflating estimates of cat predation on birds in Wisconsin to between
47 million and 139 million per year.
Birders nationwide, and especially in Wisconsin, have been
inflamed against cats by excessive projections of cat predation on
birds promoted since 1996 by University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife
biology professor Stanley A. Temple. Temple argues that cats kill
from 7.8 to 100 million birds per year in Wisconsin alone, with 39
million a “reasonable estimate.”
About 7.8 million is actually the upper end of likelihood,
based on the preponderance of data from other sources.
Credible estimates of bird predation by cats nationwide range
from 100 million per year, projected in 2003 by U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management Office biologist Al
Manville, to 134 million per year, projected in 2000 by Carol Fiore
of the Wichita State University Department of Biological Sciences.
About half of all pet cat keepers allow their cats to go out,
but surveys of cat-keepers indicate that those whose cats stay in
have about twice as many cats, reflecting the greater longevity of
Estimates of cat predation on birds going above the 100-134
million range tend to overestimate both the number of pet cats who
roam and the number of feral cats, which is currently circa 5-10
million in winter and about twice as high at the peak of “kitten
season”–half the level of 15 years ago, before neuter/return came
into widespread practice.