Lawrence Woodall column: Save A Bird

Save a Bird, Eat a Cat

Lawrence Woodall shares his Our Backyard column with North Island Gazette readers

It’s that time of year again, prepping the garden beds and greenhouses for growing delicious home grown food, while enjoying the musical interludes and bright splashes of colour of towhees, varied thrush, robins, and a host of other birds clamouring amongst the garden. seeking out the elusive tree frogs that visit the pond to lay their gelatin sack of 20 to 50 eggs.

Along with all the joys of growing your own food is the joy of battling the native slugs, in my case it’s a matter of evolving new slug recipes for survival food.

Life is good until from the corner of your vision, an orange flash, the chase is on, another bird saved, no defecating in your garden bed this time, it’s that annoying domestic tabby cat, luckily for that cat, it reached the fence line in time. For years many of us have had to deal with irresponsible cat owners who let their cats roam free, dogs have to be licensed and on a leash, why not cats?

Domestic cats aren’t just annoying, they are deadly to many wild populations, especially birds, and of course the argument is cats are predators and certain birds are prey, no argument there, but domestic cats are not native to north America and are in fact an invasive species, one of the deadliest invasive species in North America.

This is a species that is responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species. Now the last time I heard we were attempting to eradicate invasive species in Canada.

Several studies by universities, National Geographic, Environment Canada and a number of other agencies recently have highlighted the true extent of the serial killer we know as the domestic cat.

Domestic cats, and this includes feral cats, are the number one culprit in bird deaths, responsible for 200 million annually in Canada. To put things in perspective, hunting is responsible for five million deaths, 2.5 per cent of cat kills. In the United States studies have indicated up to 3.7 billion birds annually are killed by cats, but these numbers could potentially be low, as National Geographic’s kitty kam study demonstrated that only 23 per cent of cat kills are brought home, and in some cases up to 12 birds in one evening are killed by a single cat.

When you consider that the entire land base population of birds in North America is approximately 20 billion, that’s close to 20 per cent impact by domestic cats annually.

Not only are cats responsible for 33 extinctions, but are responsible for one in three bird species in decline. Along with birds, there’s the impact to amphibians and reptile populations by cats. At this time there’s not enough research to know the true impact, but conservative numbers at present put fatality numbers in the hundreds of millions.

This isn’t just an issue of irresponsible pet owners, it’s a pervasive mind set of irresponsibility by government and agencies involved in the neutering and returning of feral cats to their hunting grounds to carry on the slaughter. Senior government have legislation in place to deal with invasive species and the domestic cat should be officially labelled an invasive species.

Rules should be in place, strict rules preventing domestic cats being allowed to roam freely outside to wreak havoc on native species. Such communities as Sault Saint Marie in Ontario where cats must be tethered outdoors are being proactive, Nanaimo at this time is seeking to have cats licensed, but they need to enforce outdoor activity of cats.

I’ll look forward to the day we don’t find frog and bird kills in our backyard, but instead listen to the beautiful lyrics of living birds and frogs, observing the tadpoles develop, and while we wait for senior government to grow a pair and a backbone, we should consider taking up spitting cats on the barbecue as many cultures do worldwide in Europe, Australia, and Asia to name a few. They probably enjoy listening to birds and frogs, so in the meantime save a bird, eat a cat.

For you cat lovers keep your cat indoors or on a leash outside. By the way, indoor cats, according to the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Humane Society live an estimated five years longer than their outdoor counterparts.

 

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