East Bay Regional Park District is a system of parklands and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties to the east of San Francisco, California, USA. In all it covers 125,000 acres in seventy-three parks with over 1,250 miles of trails. There is clearly lots of wildlife there, including birdlife. The park staff have a duty to provide a good service to people while also protecting wildlife.
The problem in this instance, and which is at the centre of this disturbing story, is that park staff failed to communicate their intentions to shoot the cats to TNR volunteers who were managing feral cat colonies in the park. I am guessing that their actions were legal. They might not be as some of the cats were domesticated and former pets.
If you watch the excellent video on this page below you will hear the senior park administrator, Matt Graul, in effect admitting his failure to communicate with the volunteers who look after the cats. This failure to take the commonsense approach to communicate their intentions prevented the volunteers from trapping and relocating them or taking them to a shelter to save their lives.
(Note: sometimes videos stop working and if this has happened I apologise but I have no control over this)
The volunteers weren’t warned about the shooting and therefore they did not reach out to park staff to discuss the matter. If they had been forwarned they would have approached the park management and thrashed out a solution. Cecelia Theis, one of the volunteers, featured in the video, became extremely distressed and tearful when she learned that the reason why her cats were gradually disappearing was because they were being shot by park staff. She said that she hopes that when they were shot they died instantly and that other cats did not see it happening.
The report on ABC7 rightly states that the park management’s policy of shooting feral cats is little known. Clearly they like to do it rather surreptitiously because they don’t want to antagonise the local residents. This is because it is the sort of policy which the average citizen objects to as there are better alternatives. Also the reason for the cats’ presence in this park is the fault of humans in abandoning cats. Why, therefore, punish the cats by shooting them?
Cecelia is trying to trap the remaining cats to save their lives. She said, “I really want to get them out of here.”
She is very fond, understandably, of the cats that she cares for. That’s why she’s been so hurt by learning that they’ve been shot. She said that, “Each of them had a personality and helping them was a priority for me”. When you speak to volunteers who carry out TNR on feral cat colonies they all say the same thing namely that they are dealing with individual cats with their own personalities and they become very attached to them. Theis has lost family. They’ve been torn from her.
She found homes for the cats and their kittens, had them spayed and neutered and the colony was stable at thirty cats. But over the past month most of them had disappeared and then she was told what had happened. She got East Bay Regional Park officials to admit that the cats had been shot. She said, “It’s not okay to shoot these beings; some of them were pets that were abandoned”.
She found it difficult to find out what had happened but, as I understand it, ABC7, I-Team investigated and started to push and as you will hear in the video they found that what had happened was worse than had been feared.
They filed a California Public Records Act request for information. The parks service failed to respond by not providing the documentation but they did admit to shooting twelve cats in the marsh near the park and six more in other places.
As mentioned, the man in the video is Matt Graul, the Chief of Stewardship and he said that he felt bad about shooting the cats and that he and his staff are compassionate, they love all wildlife and that many of the staff have cats as pets. Nonetheless, he made a decision to shoot the cats without notifying the volunteers first. He could have done so much better but he failed to communicate which cost the lives of cats who were loved and who had the right to live.