This summer we experienced an unusually long period of drought (weeks long, in fact). We don't normally feed the birds because we have a nice variety already without spending the cash on birdseed. Yet, after seeing American Robins hopping around our back porch trying to drink water from the saucers below our potted plants....we caved and put up a makeshift bird bath.
It wasn't long before Sylvester started stalking around the perimeter of the bath, watching the inhabitants. I made sure that every puddy-tat I saw got chased off...hoping to instill in them some negative association of the Pavlovian variety with our house.
Didn't seem to work, though.
A manuscript published several years ago estimated that feral cats and pet cats allowed to roam free kill roughly 1 BILLION wild birds annually in the U.S. (and this is a conservative estimate; Dauphine and Cooper 2009).
Believe it or not, I haven't seen a cat take a bird on our property (although I'm sure it happens). I have, however, obtained evidence that they get other wild prey (see below).
Several of the original inhabitants, first photographed when we arrived over a year go, are still around......although a few seem to be gone.
There are are also some new faces.
last fall through early spring. But I haven't seen much of old Joe this summer and fall. He may no longer be around....although the other night as I drove up to the house I saw a kitty that looked very similar dart across the street. Might have been him.
These are just the cats that have passed this one camera location. There are others on-site, and some that appear to have moved on.
Here Tiger is following a long haired such-n-such that I saw commonly last fall and in the early spring, but has been AWOL since.
There's also El Diablo, whom I've posted about before. He was everywhere this spring, but has been gone for months.
BUT....don't be fooled by the cutesy names. These kitties have claws! And they use them to great effect on native wildlife.
What I find the most un-fathomable is that, of the literally tens of thousands of camera trap pictures and video clips generated from projects I've been involved with....I've only ever gotten pictures that definitively show predation being committed by one species:
No fox predation shots, no coyotes, no nothing. But I have a numerous pictures of kitties carrying a meal of native wildlife in their mouth.
The first of these incidences involved an Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus), which was in my post from a year ago.
There have been more acts of predation captured since that time....
Here is a picture of Calico Joe from last fall, as he saunters by with a bit of din-din.
After zooming in a bit, you can see he's carrying something in its mouth, which is the right size for a rodent (Peromyscus is common on site).
Below is Tiger trotting home with his meal of hapless Eastern Chipmunk.
The new crop of kitties don't want to be left out either. Below is a shot of Whiskers with a mouse in tow (another Peromyscus sp.). Note the set of eyes watching him in the background. I have no idea what they are from.
Of course, we already know that Mr. Marmalade is very effective at catching wildlife. But here's another shot of him in the act again (appears to be another Peromyscus).
Whenever I'm depressed about the impacts of feral cats on native wildlife, I like to watch this clip from the Muppet Show. Rowlf sings The Cat Came Back in a way that makes me smile every time...
Dauphine and Cooper. 2009. Impacts of free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) on birds in the United States: a review of recent research with conservation and management recommendations. Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics, p 205-219.
Further Reading .
Crooks and Soule, 1999. Mesopredator release and avifauna extinctions in a fragmented system. Nature 400:563-566.
Guttilla, G.A. and P. Stapp. 2010. Effects of sterilization on movements of feral cats at a wildlife-urban interface. Journal of Mammalogy 91:482-489.
Foley, et al. 2005. Analysis of the impact of trap-neuter-return programs on populations of feral cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 227:1775-1781.
Hawkins, C.C., et al. 2004. Effects of house cats, being fed in parks, on California birds and rodents. Pgs. 164-170. In Shaw et al. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 4th International Urban Wildlife Symposium.
Lepczyk, C.A. et al. 2003. Landowners and cat predation across rural-to-urban landscapes. Biological Conservation 115:191-201.
Levy, J.K., et al. 2003. Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 222:42-46.
Nogales, M. et al. 2004. A review of feral cat eradication on islands. Conservation Biology 18:310-317.
Risbey, D.A. et al. 2005. The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. II. A field experiment. Wildlife Research 27:223-235.
The Wildlife Society. 2011. In Focus: the impacts of free-roaming cats (multiple entries by several authors). The Wildlife Professional 5: 50-68.