Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Cat Rescue Movement vs. Wildlife Defenders

Feral cat colonies have become established in parks and other wildlife habitat areas with the help of advocates dedicated to saving them from "death row." But to wildlife defenders these cats are unnatural predators, destroying vast numbers of birds and other small creatures.
When she lived in Forestville, a small town in Sonoma County, Marilyn Davis was known as a friend to cats. She took in strays at the house she and her husband had built by a creek and in time there were twelve. The Davises and the cats lived happily enough until Marilyn saw a troubling pattern: rabbits, quail, varied thrushes, even snakes and frogs were being dragged over her threshold from the creekside. Because she was also a friend of wildlife, Davis reluctantly confined the most active hunters indoors, but the other cats only seemed to take up the slack. More and more wildlife arrived DOA on her doorstep. More and more cats were brought inside for good until only a few old fat ones were left lolling around on the deck. Whatever flew over their heads, though, they swatted and swallowed, almost in one motion. Finally she faced the truth: "This is their nature, every one of them. They're hunters."
In 1987 the Davises moved to a new house in Bodega Harbour, a residential community next to the salt marsh at Doran County Park. She knew that the marsh was important to wildlife and was therefore alarmed by the sight of many free-roaming cats. A neighbor, a member of Forgotten Felines, had established a feeding station for them at the 16th hole of the community golf course, with the manager's consent. She explained to Davis that all God's creatures deserve an equal chance. Davis, mindful of what she had seen with her own cats, consulted wildlife biologists at Bodega Marine Laboratory. What she learned changed her life, and it may help to save coastal marshes and parks from a deceptively endearing predator.
Davis still loves cats. But now she devotes enormous energy and effort to saving wildlife from their predation. This has pitted her against a movement for cat protection that seeks to change custom and, where necessary, laws so that feral cats might live in the wild.


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