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Continued: Feral cats remain a hot-button issue

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 31, 2013 - 5:55 PM

And he said at least the controversy shined some light on the feral cat issue, “and that’s really the important issue here.”

Issue remains contentious

But there remains a major rift between Audubon’s views on trap-neuter-release and the views of cat advocates, who don’t accept the recent Smithsonian report examining wildlife damage cause by cats.

“The figures they are putting in are just made up to come up with bogus conclusions,” said Mike Fry, executive director of Animal Ark, a no-kill animal shelter in Hastings that sterilizes and releases feral cats in St. Paul and elsewhere in Minnesota. “They hate cats.”

He said the trap-neuter-release method has been proven to reduce feral cat populations. And he said there are other basic problems with Audubon’s position.

“Every time a bird is killed, they assume it’s a bad thing, but birds are a prey species,” Fry said. “Something is supposed to eat them. Before humans moved into cities, fox, coyotes, skunks, weasels and a host of other predators ate those birds.”

Cats have replaced many of those predators in cities, he said.

And, Fry noted, most of the birds being eaten by cats are non-native species, including English house sparrows, house finches, European starlings and pigeons.

The issue could arise in Minneapolis, where City Council Member Cam Gordon wants to scrap the current catch-and-euthanize program in favor of the trap-neuter-release approach. About 270 cats were euthanized last year.

“The catch-and-kill approach has been the law of the land for 150 years in Minneapolis, and it isn’t working,” Fry said.

Local Audubon officials disagree.

“We are against trap, neuter and release because it has been proven ineffective,” said Joanna Eckles of Minnesota Audubon.“We are obviously concerned from a wildlife perspective.”

Meanwhile, Arnosti said there is no rift between cat lovers and bird lovers, because often they are one and the same. Audubon members own cats at a higher percentage than the general public, he said. Six of the eight staff members at Minnesota Audubon — including Eckles — own cats.

“We don’t let it go out unless it’s on a leash,’’ she said.

 

Doug Smith doug.smith@startribune.com

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