Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feral Cats: TNR or JKT?

The folks who cringe at killing anything, whether for meat, population management, sport, or vermin eradication, are very big on something called "TNR" for feral cats.

The acronym is supposed to stand for "Trap, Neuter,and Release," but it more properly stands for "Trap, Neuter,and Re-abandon."

Now a new study published today in Nature Communications notes that:

[F]ree-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals.  

Cats are killing billions and billions and billions of birds and small mammals in the U.S. every year. 

Cats "are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals."

And so we get back to it.  

Why is it OK to give a "big wink" to billions of murdered Mourning Doves, decapitated Chipmunks, and ravaged baby rabbits, but not OK to simply trap and humanely dispatch feral cats?

Feral cat apologists like Nathan Winograd argue that feral cats do no more predation of small wildlife than red fox or raccoons, ignoring the fact that red fox and raccoon are game animals, and that hundreds of thousands are trapped, shot, and skinned every year. 

If cats are to be thought of as being exactly like red fox and raccoons for ecological purposes, why can't we treat them the same for sport and vermin control purposes, which is to say trap and shoot them in season and/or at will? 

How many Mourning Dove lives is a feral cat worth? 

Two? Ten? Twenty? Two hundred? Two thousand?

To be clear, I am not advocating gratuitous cat killing. 

What I am asking is a simple question:  Why is one feral, non-native, and invasive species given a complete pass when it is "likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals"?

Do murdering foreign feral cats deserve more protection than peaceful native birds, rabbits, and small mammals? 

Don't our native species deserve protection from the foreign four-legged killing machines we have wantonly abandoned among them? 

Or, as Charles Dickens, Jeremy Bentham, and Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame might put it, Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?

Is it time to rethink TNR for feral cats?

Is it time to consider JKT ("Just Kill Them") instead?  

Good people can disagree, of course.

But if we're forming a jury, let's make sure Mourning Doves are on the panel.

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