Can Bird Advocates and Cat Fanciers Find Common Ground?

Can Bird Advocates and Cat Fanciers Find Common Ground?

Alisa Opar
Published: 10/04/2012

The Audubon Society of Portland, for instance, has teamed up with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (their motto is: It is not about birds versus cats; it is about protecting birds and cats.). And as part of the New Jersey Feral Cat-Wildlife Coalition, New Jersey Audubon works with TNR practitioners. 


“There are several [bird] groups in the U.S. that are trying to use mapping approaches to identify areas of high conservation value that are at risk of feral cats and then working with cat advocates,” says Christopher Lepczyk, of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Working together has its challenges. “One of the main issues is not going through the mapping work, but what happens when actual on-the-ground locations are found,” says Lepczyk. That’s when different views on management action emerge. For instance, cats on public lands must be removed. “But the cat colony folks are not always OK moving the colony, or have no where they can legally move them except to an animal shelter, where they may end up euthanized.”


Because management issues like this are so difficult to resolve, Lepczyk says “the ultimate goal should be reducing cats on the landscape, which at its heart means stopping the inflow of new cats.” That, in turn, requires public education, pet ownership laws, and indoor cat campaigns like the one in Portland.


Collaborative strategies could prove useful when birders butt heads with groups other than cat lovers. Take, for instance, off-road vehicle enthusiasts and piping plover conservationists at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Recreational Area in North Carolina. (Peterson’s class previously looked into that battle (pdf).)  “In both cases, identity politics exacerbate the conflict,” Peterson says. “In both cases bird conservation groups have the upper hand, legally, on public lands, but public traditions and emotions make iron-fisted command-and-control conservation a dangerous strategy.”


In both cases, he adds, it’s possible to meet the needs of both parties—if they’re willing. Of course, as the deadly incident with Stevenson and Newland in Galveston shows, that’s easier said than done with such an emotionally charged subject.


Stevenson was charged with animal cruelty. After deliberating for more than eight hours, the judge was forced to declare a mistrial when it became clear that the jury was—fittingly, given the issue—deadlocked.


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