The Washington Post journalist Tia Ghose picked up on the study which PoC reported on several days ago and has put her own spin on it. I like the spin. It is good to see online newspapers appraising domestic and feral cat predation more realistically.
What the Washington Post is saying is that cats (feral and indoor/outdoor domestic cats) are ‘city slickers’. In the USA, they rarely venture into neighboring wilderness.
Feral cats stick to urban areas and suburbia and according to the study rarely go to wilder places. They conclude that this is good news for wildlife in rural settings. That has to be agreed.
The study author, George Hess said:
“Bird kills in those protected areas should be lower”
By “protected areas” means he formal reserves and parkland etc.. Does it also mean that bird kills in general are lower than guesstimated? It might.
From a cat lover’s standpoint this is welcome because there are frequent attacks in the press via other studies about heavy bird predation by cats. There has been a lack of a refined approach to this criticism of cats.
For example, in 2013, researchers reported that cats in America kill up to 3.7 billion birds and 20 bn small mammals annually. These wildly estimated kills are by feral cats it is thought yet no one knows how many feral cats there are in the US so how can we estimate kill rates?
A major reason why cats are 300 times more likely to stick to urban and suburban environments is because the coyote scares them off. The coyote is aggressive towards cats and the cat is a definite prey item for the coyote. Except for ‘urban corridors’ coyotes are less likely to be found in the urban environment than in wilder places. Coyotes are too clumsy to catch birds.
Another important reason why feral cats stick around urban areas is because human food waste is there. Feral cats will always congregate where there is a food source and form colonies.
I hope this research by Hess of North Carolina State University is picked up by the ornithologists to temper their aggressive stance against the maligned cat.
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