A Summertime Trapline

Everyone loves to point fingers at feral hogs and Eurasian water milfoil as destructive invasives. But a much bigger problem sits right under our noses … and beds.

The small town where I live has the usual ordinance that requires all dogs to be licensed and leashed. Dogs running at large is strictly verboten; and as a rule, they aren't a problem. The same law puts identical conditions on cats, in that they need to be licensed and must remain on the owner's property. However, cats are a problem because they seem to be prowling the area en mass. At least, unlike dogs, we don't have to worry about cats attacking people; but feral and domestic cats are absolutely murder on the local bird population.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation issued a graph above not long ago that showed the major causes of bird mortality, and it lists cat predation as the third leading cause of bird death. This might even be conservative, as Dr. George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy (http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120806.html) is quoted as saying, "Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline."

My house rests next to a small wetland area where ducks and songbirds do a lot of nesting, and it therefore attracts every feral and roaming domestic cat in the area. It all prompted me to buy a live trap this spring and set it up on my property to see just how bad the situation is. A local dealer carries the Havahart line, and I picked up one of their two-door models to see how many illegal cats are hunting this region.

Sardines are cheap and odorous, so that's what I toss inside the trap when I set it out. But I've had to buy sardines in bulk, because the cats just keep on coming. So far I've trapped eight, and there's no end in sight because I'm still seeing fresh cat sign after each rain. Once captured, I take them to our local animal shelter, where they are held for a period of time awaiting an owner. If none surfaces, the cats are humanely euthanized. Based on looks and behavior, I'd say half have been feral critters with the other half being domesticated felines allowed to run at large, contrary to our local bylaws. None of those I've captured have worn a collar or license.

Combine cat predation with what the magpies and crows are doing, and it's no wonder the ducks and songbirds are having a tough time reproducing. So, if you'd like to do the bird population in your area a favor, consider running a summer trapline for cats. Check local bylaws and if allowed, regular use of even a single trap will reduce the free-roaming cat population and give birds a chance of surviving the summer.

What's your stance? Should cats fall into the coyote classification of "shoot on sight?" Join the conversation.

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