Birders push shooting feral cats

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2010:

WASHINGTON D.C.–The American Bird
Conservancy did not come right out and say on
December 1, 2010 that it favors shooting and
lethally trapping feral cats. But ABC did issue
a media release steering reporters to a newly
published University of Nebraska at Lincoln
extension service report that made those
The release quoted ABC vice present for
conservation advocacy Darin Schroeder stating,
“The report validates everything American Bird
Conservancy has been saying about the feral cat
issue for many years.”‘

Nothing in the release distanced ABC from
the recommendation of report authors Aaron M.
Hildreth, Stephen M. Vantassel, and Scott E.
Hygnstrom that “Lethal methods, such as trapping
with euthanasia, kill-trapping, and shooting
should also be considered,” in place of
neuter/return to control feral cat populations.”
“Place shots between the eyes,” Hildreth,
Vantassel, and Hygnstrom continued. “When this
is not possible, a shot through the heart/lung
area is acceptableŠPadded jaw foothold traps can
also be used to capture feral catsŠBody-gripping
traps and snares can be used to quickly kill
feral catsŠShooting is an efficient method to
reduce populations of cats in specific areas,”
Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom reiterated.
“Use shotguns with #6 shot or larger,
.22-caliber rifles, or air rifles capable of
shooting 700 feet per second.”
The ABC emphasized the Hildreth,
Vantassel, and Hygnstrom claim that feral cats
kill 480 million birds per year, four times more
than the estimate of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
senior biologist Albert Manville.
Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom
reckoned that cat predation on birds costs the
U.S. economy $17 billion per year, assuming that
each bird is worth $30, birders spend 40¢ per
bird seen, and bird hunters spend $216 per
shotgun blast fired, and would shoot more birds
if cats did not kill them first.
“Apparently the idea is that killing cats
saves birds so hunters can shoot them,” said Best
Friends Animal Society senior management Holly
Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom
based their estimates in part on fallacious
claims by some feral cat advocates that there are
60 million feral cats in the U.S., nearly four
times the highest recent data-based estimate and
half again higher than any data-based estimate,
and that “a pair of breeding cats and their
offspring can produce over 400,000 cats in seven
years under ideal conditions.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE and Wall Street Journal
“Numbers Guy” columnist Carl Bialik in 2007
traced the latter number back to a calculator
logarithm of dog reproduction used by the Animal
Protection Institute in a January 1968 press
release. It mysteriously picked up a zero by
1973, and about a decade later picked up another
zero when first applied to cats. As mammals in
real life have a maximum rate of sustained
reproductive capacity of about 33% population
growth per year, if the habitat supports the
increase, one female cat and her offspring,
with normal mortality for outdoor cats, might
actually produce 14 surviving cats after seven
The Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom
report “is basically a summary of previous
studies, some inaccurately quoted and others
extrapolated to reach wildly exaggerated
conclusions,” responded Alley Cat Allies
president Becky Robinson. “Still, this is not
just an issue of science, but also of ethics.
The fact that this report-based on no conclusive
or reliable data-could be used to justify
shooting cats is disturbing and offensive. Time
and again research shows that killing feral cats
to manage the population is cruel and useless.
To actually advocate shooting cats is outrageous
and in direct opposition to our values as a
“As animal advocates,” Robinson said,
“Alley Cat Allies supports policies that are in
the best interest of all animals, including
birds. That means taking a hard look at the real
threats to wildlife-habitat destruction and
pollution foremost among them-and changing how
our choices impact our environment. Killing cats
is no solution.”
“The authors say that the public’s
participation will play a pivotal role in the
effective management of feral cats,” said
Sizemore. “We couldn’t agree more with them on
that point. The public will not tolerate the
cruel methods advocated here to address
controlling free-roaming cat populations,
particularly when there is a humane solution.”

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