Should an ornithologist report on cat predation?
I argue that the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has a policy of denigrating and maligning the domestic and feral cat to serve its own ends.
I say an ornithologist should not be studying and writing reports on cat predation but unfortunately this is exactly what has happened at the highest level in the United States and it has caused significant damage to the image of the domestic and feral cat because journalist of online papers don’t know anything about the subject and just regurgitate what I argue is biased and flawed science that should shame Scott Loss of the renowned Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Let me explain, please. I won’t be long winded about it. Scott R. Loss headed the recent notorious study into cat predation statistics in the report entitled The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States.
Scott R. Loss is an ornithologist and is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. There is a precedent for biased research coming out of this center: Nico Dauphine, 38 was exposed as a biased cat hater. She poisoned cats and was convicted. She worked at Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center.
In the case of Dr Ross, I will make a presumption that if he has studied birds to such a high level and for so long it is likely that he likes and values birds more highly than other animals. And it is fair to presume that he dislikes cats because on occasion they catch and kill birds. Is this a situation where a little or perhaps a great deal of bias could creep into a major study on how many birds are killed by domestic and feral cats in the United States? I don’t know for sure but I do know that the study he has put his name to is full of holes and it is an attack on the cat.
The infamous study is a collation of previous studies which themselves are based on admitted unsound methods in that the conclusions were vague. If a previous study is based on a questionnaire, for example, sent to a group of people living on one area of America you can’t extrapolate the figures to the whole of America because we don’t know how many feral cats there are in the USA and feral cats do far more preying on wildlife than domestic cats. There have been wild estimates of feral cat numbers. If they are this wild you can forget about formulating conclusions as to cat predation across the USA.
The study in question, by implication, admits that it is impossible to come to a meaningful conclusion as to how much wildlife cats kill because throughout the report the authors use language such as:
- “The researchers estimated…”
- “There are thought to be …..”
These scientists are guessing. They are estimating numbers. Fine, but the real danger is that journalists who like to spin stories to make them more meaty ignore the conservative language of the scientists and write sensationalist headlines about mass extermination of wildlife by cats. It is all over the internet and has been for many days.
I can only say: shame on Scott R. Loss and the Smithsonian. They knew what they were doing when they released their report to the media. Scott knew his report would damage the image of the cat in the eyes of the general public. This is not helpful. It could lead to lowering of cat welfare standards when they need to be raised. It could lead to more ill-treatment of feral cats.
Note: Dr Peter Marra is one of the co-authors of the report. He is a research scientist
at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Migratory Bird Center National Zoological Park. Another person who may well be biased against the cat.