A national cat advocacy group Jan. 30 sharply criticized a new study that claims cats kill billions of birds and other wildlife each year, calling it “biased” and “a veiled promotion by bird advocates to ramp up the mass killing of outdoor cats.”
“This study is part of a continuing propaganda campaign to vilify feral cats,” said Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies, based in Bethesda, Md. “It seems as if the authors landed on a conclusion first and then cherry-picked through studies to support it. Some of the research they cite is more than a half-century old. They even cite discredited researcher Nico Dauphine, who was convicted by a D.C. jury for trying to poison cats and then fired from her job at the Smithsonian. The researcher convicted of trying to poison cats worked for [Peter] Marra, one of the authors of this study.”
The study, entitled “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States” and published by online journal Nature Communications, concludes that cats – strays, ferals and pets let outside – kill 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion mammals annually, far more than earlier estimates.
Robinson said the study “sidestepped the primary culprit of decline of wildlife populations which, of course, is human activity including habitat destruction.” She added that the authors’ proposed solution – killing tens of millions of cats – has been public policy in the United States for the past century and hasn’t worked, and that trap-neuter-return, or TNR, has proven to be much more effective at stabilizing feral cat populations.
“The threats to birds and wildlife with real impact — pollution and habitat fragmentation and destruction — are the ones without ‘easy’ answers,” Robinson said. “Americans should not be fooled by sensational headlines and bad science. Killing cats will not save species of birds or mammals.”
Scott Loss, one of the study’s authors, defended the project, telling snaptwig.com that the researchers “systematically” combined “all the data collected to date on cat predation in the U.S. and Europe, excluded studies that had major flaws or limited sample sizes, and combined predation rates with best estimates for numbers of cats in the U.S., the proportion of pet cats that are outside, the proportion of cats that hunt, and a correction factor for the proportion of prey items likely missed by researchers (i.e. not returned to cat-owners’ door steps).”
Loss said the project was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) through the Smithsonian’s postdoctoral research fellowship program. An FWS spokesman told snaptwig.com Feb. 4 that the study cost about $20,000.
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