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Placer’s cats vs. birds question has no easy answers

Animal rescue groups trap-neuter-release programs questioned
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Feral cats vs. wild birds. It’s a daily drama unfolding in and around Auburn but one that’s also being fought in the human world. On one side are cat rescue groups like AAARF and the Animal Spay & Neuter Clinic in North Auburn, both non-profits that work to keep feral cats alive and healthy in the wild. On the other are bird proponents like the American Bird Conservancy, who see feral cats as major killers of wildlife threatening the feathered population. Dede Shaw, chairman of the Animal Spay & Neuter Clinic board, said that wild cats will kill an occasional bird but that if the felines are fed already, they should be allowed to stay in areas where they are being welcomed and cared for. A key for groups like Shaw’s clinic is to trap cats, have them spayed or neutered, and then release them back to their communities so they can continue to keep down rodent populations, she said. But the American Bird Conservancy has launched a new campaign opposing trap-neuter-release programs like the North Auburn group’s, saying it promotes the feeding of outdoor cats and results in the slaughter of millions of birds – some of them endangered species. Darin Schroeder, a conservation advocate for the national group, said few people understand that the domestic cat gone wild is an extremely effective predator introduced into an environment where other species have evolved few, if any, natural cat defenses. “Non-native, well-fed, inoculated, healthy cats versus defenseless prey is about as fair in the world of nature as the proverbial shooting of fish in a barrel,” Schroeder said. The conservancy can cite studies indicating 95 million outdoor and feral cats in the United States that kill at least 532 million birds annually. The KOA Way clinic altered 1,680 feral cats last year to send back out into the wild. Shaw said that the support for the cats doesn’t end with a release. The cats are placed back in areas they are trapped in so they can return to their families, have access to the known safe areas, and be fed by volunteers. There are areas where feral cat communities are prospering in Newcastle’s business district centered around the packing sheds, Bowman along Lincoln Way, the Placer County Government Center off Richardson Drive, Chana High School, and the Recology solid-waste transfer station off Shale Ridge Road, said Cassie Reeves, co-founder of AAARF. The transfer station’s feline population is noteworthy because they keep the rodent numbers down at the garbage drop-off, she said. “We need one good bubonic plague and then everyone would want a cat,” Reeves said. The conservancy is pressing for new licensing programs for cats to prevent the spread of disease. And feeding cats only attracts more hungry wildlife, which increases the chances for interactions with rabid animals. But Shaw said that the clinic’s cats are inoculated before they’re released and any feeding is done during the daytime, with food brought inside after dark. Both sides agree that cat over-population is a human-caused tragedy. “It affects the health and well-being of cats, our native wildlife and the public,” Schroeder said. Reeves, wjp serves as secretary-treasurer of the Auburn Area Animal Rescue Foundation, said that the Masters Court facility handles about 500-650 cat adoptions a year and is now facing the closure of its shelter because of revenue shortfalls due to lower donations. AAARF takes in kittens from feral colonies for adoption. This past week, seven from one litter were turned over after being trapped in a mobilehome park. Reeves said she doesn’t think it’s cruel to leave domestic cats in the wild. “Not every cat is suited for being inside,” she said. “There are plenty of barn cats and others that do a job for humans.” ***Story altered to reflect quotes wrongly attributed to Dede Shaw on locations of feral cat colonies and the statement “We need one good bubonic plague and then everyone would want a cat” .