Richard, I'm aware of the multitude of ways that forest fragmentation
devastates the forest ecosystems. Cowbirds are only one of the more
obvious ways. Everything you cite is an important factor and it makes
me scream in frustration when some politician insists that some proposed
development or oil or mineral extraction has a "small footprint" because
most of it is just a miles-long access road through the forest.
Question for you, though. Are you aware of any studies showing that any
species of North American bird or mammal has a population that's
declining as a direct result of cat predation? I have never heard of
one, nor have I been able to find one with a bit of Googling. Doesn't
mean they don't exist, though, I just haven't heard of one.
My point in all of this, expressed badly apparently, is simply to ask
people to keep this in perspective. Cats kill lots of birds and small
mammals, but every study we have in this country that I've seen, it
turns out that those birds and mammals are overwhelmingly common species
that are abundant and in no danger whatsoever.
We don't like to see cats kill our birds. *I* don't like to see cats
kill birds. (Luckily, mine rarely do. They're preoccupied with the
much easier to catch voles and shrews and mice.) But that's a strong
personal emotional reaction, not an actual conservation problem, as far
as I've been able to learn.
Yes, I'm very fond of cats and don't like to see them scapegoated. More
importantly, it's a diversion and a distraction from the much harder
task of trying to change or slow down the things that really are
dramatically affecting bird populations, and we shouldn't let ourselves
fall victim to that. You could eliminate all the cats in the country
and it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference to the bird species
that really are declining.
On 1/30/2013 11:02 AM, Richard Enser wrote:
> Thank you Noel for providing the link. Clearly, whtever one may
> think about the BBC article being a "scare story" or their method of
> "burying the lead", or not being "honest", they were simply reporting
> on an important study, peer-reviewed, authored by scientists from the
> American Bird Conservancy and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology
> Institute, and based on a review of 90 previous studies. Now we have
> clarification of a problem that conservationists have long known to
> be an issue. I suggest that if you want to quibble about the issue
> of cats being a detriment to wildlife populations you take your
> argument to the authors of the study and not the BBC who are merely
> just the messengers.
> Jane, I'm not going to bore the list serve readers by addressing all
> of your points. I might suggest you read a little more about forest
> fragmentation before characterizing the problem as merely devastation
> of habitat. Direct habitat loss is certainly an issue that causes
> fragmentation, but the real problems for biodiversity are the
> incidious impacts that take place in the remnant forest tracts that
> are left behind. Developers are always proud to point out the amount
> of land they "save" in their subdivisions as "open space", with of
> course little understanding of how the remnants they save are merely
> refuges for the opportunists (the raccoons, skunks, etc. of which
> you speak). But the impacts are not just from coyotes and raccoons,
> but from the higher incidence of invasive plants, increased air and
> water pollution, greater fluctuation in temperature, greater wind
> damage, and yes, dogs and cats reducing populations of shrews, voles,
> snakes, amphibians, pretty much anything that moves. And forest
> fragmentation does not just impact birds. There are a growing number
> of studies reporting on the detrimental impacts to plants, herptiles,
> and many insect groups, all of this resulting in the homogenization
> of forest communities - basically the local extirpation of native
> species and replacement with alien species, many of them invasive.
> Yes, cats are not the only isssue, but with this most recent study we
> get a clearer understanding of the depth of the problem and
> recognition that it is one that needs to be addressed.
> ________________________________ From: Noel Dodge
> <[log in to unmask]> To: [log in to unmask] Sent: Wednesday,
> January 30, 2013 9:00 AM Subject: Re: [VTBIRD] bbc article on
> cats/birds-wildlife - (long)
> Forget the BBC article; here is the American Bird Conservancy, with a
> link to the actual paper.
> You cannot compare natural predator impacts to anthropogenic sources
> of mortality to justify those anthropogenic sources. Any domestic cat
> mortality is an additional impact that would not otherwise occur.
> -----Original Message----- From: Vermont Birds
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jane Stein Sent: Wednesday,
> January 30, 2013 1:19 AM To: [log in to unmask] Subject: Re:
> [VTBIRD] bbc article on cats/birds-wildlife - (long)
> Richard, please don't make up your own stories about what I think or
> do. Thanks.
> Here's what I know that makes me skeptical of this and other similar
> articles. First, any naturalist will tell you there's far, far more
> damage done to ground-nesting birds in both woods and fields by
> coyotes, foxes, racoons and other small to medium-sized predators and
> omnivores whose population is way too high because of the absence of
> top predators, like wolves, to keep their numbers down.
> It isn't primarily nest-sitting birds that are killed, it's eggs, and
> when nests are destroyed, birds often don't come back to try again.
> These wild critters love eggs and seek them out. They destroy far
> more ground nests than any cat, which unlike them, typically have no
> idea what to do with an egg. I used to know and work with several
> refuge managers for small suburban refuges, and none of them ever
> mentioned their not uncommon cat visitors as a problem, but became
> apoplectic on the subject of dogs, which trample nests out of
> curiosity more than actually eat eggs, and egg-eating raccoons, etc.
> I intensely dislike killing things, even spiders in my kitchen and
> wasps nesting over my door. But there comes a point when it's them
> or me, and I'm afraid I choose me. (I have it on fairly good
> third-hand authority, btw, that even the Dalai Lama's household is
> unkind to mice. I asked because I remain troubled about the issue.)
> Yes, mice are pests when they chew their way into your house and
> cupboards and leave their feces all over your kitchen and pantry or
> chew holes in your potato crop before it's even harvested.
> Urban sprawl and forest fragmentation, I whole-heartedly agree, is
> the major problem here. But it's not because of housecats, it's
> primarily from the devastation of the habitat itself, secondly the
> presence of coyotes and raccoons attracted to human garbage.
> We can argue all day about cats, but articles like this BBC one are
> just not honest in their attempt to portray housecats as having a
> devastating effect on "wildlife," which conjures up horrible images,
> but then not telling you until the very end that they're talking
> about mice and other creatures so abundant and with such a
> reproduction rate that it would take 100 times as many cats as there
> are now roaming around to make a dent in them, and then that it's
> feral cats that do the most damage anyway. That's called "burying
> the lead" in journalism, and it's not being straight with readers.
> What this kind of thing does, IMO, is let us in our too easy anger at
> very visible cats forget about the things that are doing the real
> damage-- as you say, human development and forest fragmentation,
> which would be just as devastating even if there were no cats at all.
> Far more damage is done to bird populations by cowbirds allowed in by
> forest fragmentation, not to mention the rapidly shrinking winter
> habitat and staging areas along the way for migratory birds.
> As for prey for hawks and owls, it's coyotes and foxes that do the
> most damage there, though still not enough to make very much of a
> dent. You might find it interesting to look up what's happened at
> Yellowstone since they introduced wolves and the populations of both
> those smaller predators dropped way down. Among other things, yes,
> the hawks came back, and also the nesting habitat for birds that had
> been destroyed by deer browsing.
> They've seen the same thing at Plum Island in Mass., where for a
> while wintering Rough-Legged hawk numbers dropped dramatically when
> both coyotes and foxes, I think, moved in and the refuge staff held
> off on killing them because of public distaste for the idea. There
> were no cats in either place.
> Also, the primary mouse and vole-eating raptors in this country have
> stable or increasing populations, with only two exceptions that I
> know of, one being the Ferruginous Hawk out west, the one that came
> back to Yellowstone, and the Kestrel. Neither one is in trouble
> because of food insufficiency.
> I've also seen very vividly here that when the local hunters go on
> one of their periodic coyote slaughtering parties, the population of
> both rabbits and voles absolutely explodes for a year or so until the
> coyotes build their numbers up again.
> Against all this, cat predation is insignificant, if we're talking
> about actual effects on populations.
> By all means, do what you can to get neighbors to keep their cats in
> where you're having a problem, or even work for a city ordinance.
> I'd help you. I wouldn't have a cat that needs to be outdoors in the
> city or even most suburbs. But it really does seem to me the issue
> is someone's desire to have unmolested feeder birds to watch versus
> the neighbor's desire to let his cat spend time outdoors. That's a
> volatile issue, but it isn't a conservation issue.
> I looked up, by the way, endangered species of rabbits and other
> rodents in North America, and couldn't find one where cat predation
> was cited as even worth mentioning. If there are places where it is,
> I'd favor some kind of vigorous local, state or even federal action
> to restrict, trap and remove, or even ultimately kill cats.
> All I'm arguing for here is that we look maybe more calmly at the
> facts. Those are the relevant facts that I know of. Given all those
> things, I'm more than a little bit skeptical of the scare stories
> that pop up periodically, especially because they tend to be
> published, as this one was, as scare stories and not reasoned
> ecological discussions and the role cats may or may not play in
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