Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cats or Coyotes?

That is the question many are asking at California State University Long Beach. Recently, small critters have sparked large concern for public relation officials on the campus and the solution is not an easy one.

Alleged sightings of a coyote, or coyotes, have caused concern for public safety. Problems will inevitably arise when wild animals come in close contact with humans, and CSULB officials want to blame feral cats on the coyotes’ presence.

Cats have lived on the campus since 1949, when the institution was established, and individuals have been caring for (feeding/watering and TNRing) them for at least the past 25 years. The 1984 estimations were that approximately 300 feral cats inhabited the campus. Today’s estimate — depending on which source provides the figures — falls between 100 and 160 cats.

Because a few feral cats have been found dead, some are claiming the cats are “attracting” the coyotes; while others make the argument that possums, rats, raccoons, and trash could also be enticing the coyotes to campus. Activists say campus officials are using the cats as a scapegoat, so the debate has come down to who should be removed…the cats or the coyotes?

Experts from the California Department of Fish and Game and specialists in animal behavior had advised that "if a predictable source of prey is removed, the coyotes will typically move." On the other hand, Bill Dyer, Southern California regional director for In Defense of Animals, a national animal protection group says, "if they're concerned about the safety of people, get rid of the coyotes [relocate them]." Leslie Abrahams, who heads a campus animal assistance program, agrees by stating, "they are spayed and neutered. Why would you kill perfectly healthy cats just to save two coyotes?"

According to the Los Angeles Times, “the activists who care for the campus cats said they have been given 40 days to get rid of them. They insisted that moving the felines to shelters would spell death, and they argue that trapping the coyotes would be better than targeting the cats.” Most agree that CSULB officials should have waited for the results of the investigation to be certain of coyote presence before making a decision; so far, this determination has been reached based on alleged sightings.

Either way, those who have been caring for the cats have done a tremendous job. If this statistic doesn't prove that TNR works, I don't know what does? Cats can live to be 20 years old; yes, feral cats, perhaps, live shorter lives, but still this reduction should be viewed as a success not a failure. (Some argue that TNR has not been successful because the reduction has been limited; thus, get rid of the cats.) Over a period of 24 years, the number of ferals living in this area has been reduced by half...I think that is pretty darn good! At any rate, the reduction clearly supports that TNR is an effective method of controlling feral cat populations AND it is humane.

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