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.

Biased report into cat predation
Photo and collage by Michael.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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.

25 thoughts on “Should an ornithologist report on cat predation?”

  1. ps I agree Ruth,those who eat birds have no right to demonise hungry cats for doing the same,for God’s sake the amount cats kill is a drop in the ocean in comparison to the number of birds killed by humans!

    Reply
  2. Research studies can easily be warped and biased and this is what has happened,they want the cat to show in a bad light,it’s quite obvious to see.
    I’m sick of hearing about the decline of birds being down to cats and these so called studies proving it.
    Two words
    THEY DON’T

    Reply
  3. I agree with you Michael ‘estimated’ and ‘thought to be’ are not good enough and cat hating, bird lovers should not be doing this research, they are totally biased.
    They should be looking to help the problem of feral cats by promoting TNR because people caused the problem in the first place by dumping un-neutered cats and leaving them to fend for themselves. Don’t blame the cats, educate the ignorant people!
    Cats have as much right to live as birds and anyway these people who blame cats for the decline of birds need to look to themselves.
    The human race pollute the air the birds breathe, destroy their habitat, poison the food they eat, some kill birds for FUN!
    Do they complain when cats keep the rodent population under control? No they don’t.
    I wonder if these cat hating, bird lovers sit down to roast turkey or chicken, birds many of whom lived in misery and died in agony, a much worse death than being caught by a starving cat.
    They have beaks, wings and feathers too, maybe they are not as pretty as some birds but so what, they are BIRDS too, not meant to be food for flesh eaters.
    Biased and hypocritical are the words that spring to my mind!

    Reply
  4. We’re studying about the process of science and this review of a large group of other peoples reports seems to be the lazy mans way of doing things. I have a friend in the psychological field and she and I spoke about this type of pseudo -paper writing that suddenly started a few years back. I agree, the data seems extreme. We would have solid evidence that this stuff is true. She pushed the numbers way, way up. I wish it wouldn’t make people look down on the Smithsonian as a whole. They do good work. I’ve just been dealing with the fallout from this report and can’t say it enough, “If the numbers look funny, the report is fatally flawed and thus should be disregarded!” Sorry, meant no offensive above Michael, I just had a bit of a chip on my shoulder over this.

    In my Foundations of Science course we had to review a 6 or 8 websites that claimed to contain unbiased, peer-reviewed, scientific evidences regarding global warming. I noticed that real science papers always included both sides of their testing. This report seems to only have looked at the other possible causes for bird deaths in a very precursory way. She is afraid to show the truth, because than she won’t be justified. Remember, there are those on the left-side of things here in the States that make movies with things they know are lies. As long as it gets one more person to see things there way. (think Michael Moore). This is just a bit off the beaten path, but maybe she needs a good snoggin?

    Why do people hate indiscriminately? I know they hate things they don’t understand.
    ================================================
    Sadly, Mymains Stewart Gilligan aka Stewie, the Official World’s Longest Cat past away. He had cancer. Here is a link to his Facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/Longercat

    RIP big guy. I enjoyed the short videos and few pictures of you we were allowed to see. Your mom and dad wanted you for themselves. I have no doubt that you were more than willing to oblige. Farewell.

    Reply
  5. if one truly understood the language of research and statistical significance, one would also understand that the language typically used may sound inconclusive, as even researchers will admit that often few things may be proven “beyond reasonable doubt”. Also – the practice of taking a “representative sample size” and then applying it across similar demographics is carefully designed. The people who did the study are specialists in research; this is what they do. A hypothesis is tested to come to a conclusion; numbers are used to test significance. There have been studies done over the last 3 decades testing the same hypothesis, and now we see that the majority support the same conclusion. That is good research. If you have studies supporting theories otherwise, please – bring them to the plate and dispute this with the same skill set and dedication that these scientists have. Organizations and individuals that continue bashing these studies are losing more credibility vs. gaining support. As Buckminster Fuller so eloquently phrased: “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”

    Reply
    • I really don’t think the scientists have great skills in this area. The data is built around questionnaires etc. and they openly admit that their figures are estimates. What good is that if the journalists then grab those figures and turn them into hard fact.

      You have missed my point entirely. I think it adds credibility to question and challenge scientists. They are human beings with the usual hang ups. We should not be in awe of them as you seem to be.

      The point I am making is the scientists are deliberately spreading information that damages the image of the cat to force the government to do something to reduce cat population sizes. The ultimate goal is to get rid of millions of cats. I don’t necessarily disagree with that because there are too many unwanted cats in the USA but it has to be done humanely and over many, many years. This report will encourage abuses.

      Reply

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