Earlier this month, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the US Navy released an environmental assessment of a restoration plan for endangered and protected native species on San Nicholas Island off the coast of California. The plan proposes to have approximately 200 feral cats killed by use of leg-hold traps, dogs, and shotguns; the plan is expected to be completed within a year.
San Nicholas is a member of California's eight Channel Islands. Measuring nine miles in length and three and one-half miles wide, it has very little vegetation, an arid climate, and is prone to high winds and erosion. The island served as the setting for Scott O'Dell's 1960 best-selling children's novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins.
(Picture Source: Wikipedia)
Since 1933, it has been owned and occupied exclusively by the Navy; which maintains missile and aircraft launch facilities, as well as a radar tracking unit. Approximately 200 sailors are stationed on the island, and it is closed to the public.
Cats have been living on the island for the last 150 years, if not longer. It is believed that they were first transported to the island during the 1800s by ranchers and fishermen to serve as mousers and companions. The cats currently residing on the island are their descendants.
Although the USFWS have not produced evidence that the cats' presence is having a harmful effect on other species, they have rejected not only pleas to allow them to stay but also the use of both humane traps and contraceptives. They have opposed both TNR proposals and suggestions of relocating the cats off island. Once the cats are caught/trapped, they will either be shot or administered a lethal injection. "This is the most humane and feasible alternative we've found," said Jane Hendron, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Carlsbad as stated to the Ventura County Star newspaper.
Eradication attempts often fail and can be counter productive. Eradication is rarely total and the reproduction cycle starts over again. A controlled, stable colony prevents this “vacuum effect.” Not to mention, there have been several cases where eradication has worsened the conditions for birds and other animals. On Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean, biologists eradicated feral cats to protect ground-nesting seabirds. The black rat and house mice population immediately increased (because their predator was removed), and they began to prey upon the birds. Also, in New Zealand, biologists poisoned the rat population, so the stoats (who mainly preyed upon the rats) shifted their diet from rats to the endangered birds. The same is possible for San Nicholas Island; if the feral cats are eradicated, the deer mouse population and the native island fox population will most likely increase, endangering the bird populations.
Alley Cat Rescue encourages our members to contact the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife office and express your disappointment with their decision to kill the feral cats living on San Nicholas Island.
Type of Station: ECOLOGICAL SERVICES FIELD OFFICE
Telephone: 760 431-9440
Fax: 760 431-5901
6010 Hidden Valley Road
Carlsbad, CA 92011-4219