Scavenging vultures are the reasons why feeding feral cats endangers aircraft

The experts say that if you feed feral cats, you attract wildlife. And a species of wildlife which can endanger the lives of pilots of aircraft are vultures. These are big birds which are commonly seen in groups. They can bring down a plane and therefore potentially kill the pilot. That’s the argument on how feeding feral cats puts pilots’ lives in danger. There is a lot of talk about food put down for feral cats attracting wildlife. There is no doubt it is a concern of many people and a negative aspect of TNR.

Woman allegedly feeding feral cats on the airbase. She "leaves food for wild cats on board the installation".

Woman allegedly feeding feral cats on the airbase. She “leaves food for wild cats on board the installation”. Photo: unknown photographer.

However, to the best of my knowledge, volunteers who carry out TNR programs control how they feed the feral cats in their colonies. Food is put down for a set time. It is taken up and not left out willy-nilly 24/7. That’s my understanding. I would have thought that would this address the issue, at least substantially, of endangering the lives of pilots.

I have to say, too, that although theoretically it seems plausible, the article that I have read on this topic does not produce any hard evidence that any aircraft has been brought down by birds who were feeding on cat food. There’s just no evidence, so from my perspective this is more theoretical than practical.

The expert that I’m referring to is Lance McDaniel who is the environmental director of NAS Patuxent River. Wikipedia tells me that this is a United States naval air station located in Saint Mary’s County Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Patuxent River.

He meets regularly with others to work out how to keep birds and animals away from the airfield. Jim Swift states that: “Vultures are a high-risk species for aircraft, typically because of their size and the fact that they occur in multiples rather than just solitary animals. We hit vultures here with airplanes”. He is a natural resource specialist. He says that leftover cat food attracts vultures and that he has seen vultures at the feeding stations. Comment: yes, but has he seen the same vultures bringing down a military aircraft at the air base? I am sure that he has not otherwise he would have said it.

I’ll return to what I say above: I would like to see some firm evidence i.e. documented evidence that any aircraft in the USA has been brought down by a vulture or other bird species feeding on feral cat food put down by volunteers looking after a colony. The experts will say that we should not wait until that catastrophe happens and I get that. What how about this? Let’s see some documentary evidence that there have been some near misses which had been directly attributed to feral cat colonies. Is anybody recording these incidents? They should be if you’re going to make an argument against feeding feral cats.


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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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