In his September/October Incite column, Ted Williams tackles the hotly debated impact of feral cats on bird populations nationwide, particularly the effectiveness of Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) programs. Battles are raging between TNR supporters who have a great (surprising, actually) deal of political clout and biologists who see that the programs aren’t helping to curb growing feral cat populations and believe euthanization may be the only solution to protect our birds.
But as discussed in this month’s column, feral cat culling is never an easily-won argument and many conservation groups have been forced to join forces with TNR supporters just so something can be done to reduce stray populations, even if it has only minimal impact. One such group was the New Jersey Audubon Society, which had to collaborate with TNR practitioners in exchange for the promise that sponsors of feral cat colonies would keep them away from bird nesting areas. Well, it looks like TNR got another stronghold in New Jersey this week in Point Pleasant Beach, 100 miles north of where the state’s TNR debate originated and home of some of the most important shorebird habitat in the nation.
Officials are planning to practice TNR after the community’s population of stray cats became affected with rabies and attacked two children, including a 17-year-old relaxing in his own backyard. They intend to round up as many of the area’s estimated 300 feral cats and “place them in cages in rented, climate-controlled trailers for 60 days of observation,” reports The Star-Ledger. “Authorities will kill infected cats while healthy adult cats will be vaccinated, neutered and returned to their colonies…Kittens will be put up for adoption.”
If the Point Pleasant Beach feral cats are transmitting rabies to humans, consider what other disease they might possibly be spreading to the area’s bird populations, let alone how many shorebirds they are preying on. As Ted points out, we know feral cats aren’t just a threat as predators to birds, but also as carriers of toxoplasmosis, roundworms, hookworms, ringworms, and much more. What do you think of the use of TNR as a control method in Point Pleasant Beach or in general? To join the discussion or comment about this month’s Incite, we welcome your comments here.