April 11, 2005

Feral cats await news.

Today's the big day, the Wisconsin State Journal reports:
Cat lovers and bird-loving hunters are girding for battle at tonight's Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings, where citizens across the state will be asked to vote on whether stray cats should be hunted.

The proposal, known as Question 62, asks whether the state Department of Natural Resources should define free- roaming, feral domestic cats as an "unprotected species" that can be shot by anyone with a small-game hunting license. The proposal would affect any cat not under an owner's direct control or without a collar.

The proposal is the suggestion of Mark Smith, a La Crosse hunter who considers feral cats an invasive species. Smith received death threats last month after a Wisconsin State Journal story about his proposal spread across the nation, electrifying pet lovers.

His suggestion was quietly approved last year by the La Crosse County branch of the Conservation Congress. Subsequently, the full Congress, an elected body with the duty to advise the DNR and Legislature on natural resource issues, decided to put the issue before the general public at its spring hearings, which take place at 7 p.m. tonight in each of the state's 72 counties....

Joe Caputo, chairman of the Dane County Conservation Congress, said he hopes tonight's meeting at the Alliant Center is civil.

"It's a good forum to start a debate on this issue. As chair, I'm going to allow people to speak, as long as everybody can be constructive and civil," Caputo said. "But if it turns into a free-for-all, I'll call the question and we will vote on it and move on to the next question. Everybody will have 3 minutes to speak. We're all adults and able to listen...."

It's basically bird lovers against cat lovers here, isn't it? Hunters are not the important factor.

UPDATE: Here's a report on those meetings.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I still haven't seen the results of the vote, but here are some comments from Sissy Willis.


Kris said...

I agree, this is bird people v. cat people. As Wisconsin doesn't seem to have a shortage of songbirds, I'm going to have to side with Sylvester over Tweety in this one.

Ann Althouse said...

Are crows songbirds? That's almost all I see anymore.

Actually, I think the hunters are concerned about certain types of birds, like pheasants.

b.sikes said...

the bird folk have (nominally) the science on their side: feral cats can be a severly disruptive problem in most ecologies, but it should be unsurprising the overall balance-of-nature situation is more complex.

feral cat colonies are pretty efficient and indiscriminate hoovers, and every hunter should, as a matter of responsible, ethically consumptive use, kill every feral cat possible.

b.sikes said...

crow are not songbirds, and if that is about alll you are seeing, that is not a very diverse, healthy avian ecology.

where feral cats do the most (worst?) damage is understory & ground nesters: little brown birds, little grey birds, little coloured birds ... a colony of ferals can unquestionably drain the local gene pool. plus they affect pheasants, quail and waterfowl to varying degrees.

but again, that damnable complexity occurs. most stomach census data from ferals indicate the overwhelming diet is rodent.

PatCA said...

Crows also eat smaller birds, I believe, and I read that the songbird population has been decimated there.

In LA county we have an estimated 7000 coyotes roaming around and are told that we have taken their habitat so basically should suck it up when they come and snatch our pets. We don't have a "natural" ecosystem any more so we have to manage it; exactly how is the big question.

b.sikes said...

crow are opportunistic omnivores, and eggs and baby birds are certainly part of their diet, but they are creatures of the understory.

'yotes, along with cockroaches, are the ultimate marginal survivors, and both thrive in human areas. one 'positive' from a high song-dog population is there are few feral cat colonies. 'yote populations self-control, but it is not pretty: red mange & rabies, mostly.

the real issue in wisconsin is, i think, who is serious about acknowledging/addressing a demonstrable ecological problem, and as seems almost universal, the ar-loons are not.

that said, putting cat on a small-game license (v. simply declaring them an unprotected species ... or doing nothing: 'wink, wink') seems overly serious.

feral cats are not an unknown ecological disaster, and i don't know any hunter - especially bird hunters - who do not, with no conscious thought whatsoever, kill every one they see at any opportunity. that is just part of being a sportsman and good steward.

Anonymous said...

Are we supposed to ignore destructive alien pests loose in our ecology until we have "a shortage of songbirds" in the world? I think not, we have too many species that are threatened and endangered now!