Sunday, 19 January 2014

PART I: Cats as predators; we're meat eaters, too

dead mouse
Last night's prey
When I look at the field mouse tunnels on our lawn, I feel no grief! They tunnel under the snow, as this Red Fox video shows. Our shed has deermice (left) in what was a box that houses the electrical plug. I think the first owner ran an extension cord from the house to light the backyard shed. The next owner must have cut it off. The box remains as a nice little mouse den. Daisy told me there are mice in there! When I open the shed door to get some bird seed, they run and hide.

I often find mice eating the bird seed. Sometimes, they will hop into the garbage cans, in which I store the bird seed, and when I next go back to the cans they will have sat there overnight, happily devouring the seed.

Oliver caught red squirrels our first year here, but they've had babies, and came back with compensatory reproduction. Thankfully! I felt so guilty. The mice are plentiful, as well, and form the basis of our cats' outdoor activities. As a meat-eater, I cannot judge. They'll bring garter snakes to me, poor things just harvesting the frogs from the goldfish pond, which I release in the far-off meadow. I liken them to our wolf and coyotes, they prey on the weak,  slow to run, not-so-swift (chipmunks really are dumb as bricks - why built a home outside our back door) and keep the gene pool strong. The wild canines, as well as our domestic felines, eat more mice, voles, moles than we know. Bless their hearts.

Daisy, trying to catch the chickadees.
They're far too quick for her, sitting tweeting, and teasing her!
Birds are clever and visit various food sources throughout the day. Deer, not so much, and tend to exploit an area, then move on. Ours is their winter yard, where they congregate feeling safe in our meadow, unlike Bambi and his momma.

There are 'research studies' out there, proclaiming how many critters cats kill. The media has grabbed these stories and run with this poor science. Now, as with the deer that we feed, if you regularly feed the birds, you'll support the species. So long as you continue to feed them. If you live in a rural area, have access to a large acreage (1200 acres of land nearby), and feed them quality food, I'm happy to continue our feeding program begun by the previous owners.
They expect it, their meagre mouthful each day.

Caught it in the seeds!
This cat study [KittyCam] was a lesson in sloppy science on the part of National Geographic (media seeking readers), for a project seeking funding, with these conclusions. Perhaps Tree Hugger embraces the 'call to action' popular in the media, but the numbers of cats studied was too small, environmental conditions will vary from area to area, rural/urban, country-to-country, and there are too many variables to make it a valid study, susceptible to inflated numbers. Any extrapolation of the results from that small a collection of data to world-wide statistics, is criminal. You can conclude and extrapolate for Georgia, for a temperate climate, cannot compare to this climate.

Field mouse - they've been nipping my goldfish
pond liner.
Reputable studies need more than a study population of 60 cats, with 30% capturing prey. That said, only a minority of these cats hunted at all all the time. The prey recorded included Carolina Anoles (abundant lizards), voles (abundant) then unspecified invertebrates (probably abundant), and last of all birds. One cat refused cat food, which further changes predictive value of cats. As with all predators, they are most likely killing the sick, injured, and most commonly found birds, when they do get a bird. One has to put it in perspective. My field is filled with mice, judging by the mouse tunnels, yet they aren't caught all that often.
"You can be pretty sure they're not bringing down endangered American Eagles; and we don't have endangered birds in our forest." wrote one commenter. 
A GOOD scientist can not extrapolate that cats are killing 500 million birds a year from THIS study; "cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds."
deer mouse
The American Bird Conservancy extrapolates this data from Athens, Georgia, to a 'slaughter of 4 Billion birds', yet it doesn't apply everywhere, especially to non-feral cats, like ours. Nor can you extrapolate to cats who live in cold regions, where they are indoors, out of the snow and cold, or barn cats.

And, yes, Kellie, we can point fingers at one another, but ultimately, naturalists must be realists. As with the 'End Poverty Now' campaigns, we aren't going to eliminate cat ownership. It is a fruitless endeavour, especially in rural Canada, to keep all barn cats and feral cats indoors! There is a purpose to their captures.

KittyCam Technology Reveals How Much Wildlife Is Killed by Outdoor Cats

The results of the study showed that of the 60 cats wearing the cameras, 30% captured and killed prey with an average of one kill for every 17 hours spent outside, or 2.1 kills per week. You can watch several select videos of cats' activity, like fighting off an opossum, making a new cat friend, and birdwatching.
We used Kitty Cams to investigate the activities of urban free-roaming cats in Athens, Georgia from Nov. 2010 -Oct. 2011

I had such a time with rude, abusive posts, wishing a zoonostic cat disease on me and my grandchildren, that I had to delete them. As with other invasive species, we must learn to live with cats. From a discussion, she went into rants. Very rude and disrespectful youngster.
She got me banned from a Facebook sight, as I wanted people to discuss this topic reasonably. It didn't happen. It skewed into cats as invasive species. 

25 comments:

Debbie said...

the male cardinal is just gorgeous and yes he is a twit!!

in my yard, it's pick a branch, any branch as long as there's a branch in front of you. we don't want to make this easy on that lady with the camera!! hehe

Nancy Tapley said...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-19353/Cats-kill-275-million-animals-year.html Here's a link to a much bigger, longer and more comprehensive study. Like everything, moderation -- if you are the only "cats" in a very large acreage, the population will be just fine. However, cats DO cause a lot of havoc in more congested areas. Which is why New Zealand has restricted them to being indoors, as has Bermuda. The local fauna cannot compete with these efficient carnivores.

Kellie said...

Kellie said...

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

It's true, Nancy. Moderation. Far too many cats in cities.

I'm just tired of really awful studies and knee-jerk conclusions!
Point is, our cats mostly bring home mice!

Kellie S. said...
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Martha said...

Your cardinals are gorgeous. I know they're here too but so far they're finding a meal elsewhere and I've opted to enjoy the blue jays and my woodpecker, along with a variety of little birds; sparrows, juncos, and chickadees.

My cats are too busy catching mice right now to bother the birds much. (Knock on wood.)

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Kay L. Davies said...

My cat Hermie (many years ago) used to kill birds. In 12 years, I only saw three of them. He was a smart cat, but that's not a great hunting average, and wouldn't extrapolate to very many even for the worst scientist. LOL
Gorgeous cardinals, Jenn. I'm jealous.
Luv, K

Kay said...

That's very interesting about the cats. I always thought they might kill birds a lot. However, we have a gazillion feral chickens walking around and the feral cats haven't gotten to the chicks somehow.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Birds are last on a cat's menu because they are much too much work - as photorazzi Jenn discovered with her Red Cardi!!! I agree with you that as majority humans are carnivorous also, there is a double standard going on. Trouble is that those same critics can have legislation made against voiceless animals, but try doing the same to duck/deer/boar (etc) hunters. Then there are all sorts of to-int and fro-ing about human rights to their activities.

HELLOOOO!! .....

You're a girl after my own madness, stalking birds dressed inappropriately. (This morning for me it was the bath towel; and only just!) YAM xx

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

What I find interesting is that the cats bring home their prey to the back or front decks, and I release them 9 times out of ten.

Despite keeping bird seed in sealed garbage cans, the mice get in. By the time I walk over to the feeder and return to cover up, they must get in.

I once gave a kitten to the Humane Society, because she kept jumping the fence and going into the neighbour's yard. This when we lived in the city. I couldn't stop her.

I adore that the cats go with me on walks. We're so noisy we never see critters, or they run, yet they like our walks.

Rideau Ferry said...

It's no fun when special interest groups take a shot at your passion is it...whether it's allowing cats at large, feeding deer, angling, hunting, etc....there is always a small percentage that gives the rest of us a bad name...let's try to accept each other.

Martha said...

While getting seed for my bird friends this morning, I scooped up a cupful of peanuts for the blue jays. There on the top of the cup was a dead mouse. I let out the most hideous scream, but didn't manage to drop him or the cup. (Although surprising, and scream inducing, mice really aren't all THAT scary...) Once outside I took him by the tail and tossed him into the garden. He wasn't even stiff yet and I'm beginning to wonder if I scared him to death rather than the other way around.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Funny, Martha!

I agree, Rideau Ferry. When a group is highjacked by individuals, who presume to know what I am doing, and don't ask. You, at least, asked my position on the Landowners' Association vs. individual landowners.
This little university student/wannabe engineer / bird hugger wrote more than an 1100-word lecture on how ignorant I was. I just deleted the thing.
I simply don't need the grief, nor people who won't ask for clarification, nor people who usurp interest groups.

Rideau Ferry said...

Good Morning Jenn,
I don't think I ever asked your position on the Landowners assoc? Maybe I'm forgetting. I didn't realize someone contacted you direct re your cats, I thought you were commenting on a topic of interest. Sorry to hear it,..no fun!

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Well, RF, this student told me I was bad because the field mice my cats were catching were taking prey away from the coyotes who eat them. She questioned how many mice I thought I had. All I have to do is walk to the shed, and I can see we have a rich population. The coyotes do not hunt mice in my backyard, although they do in the wetland beyond! 'Tis rather extreme!

The Landowners group is scary. The signage ('Back Off Government'), as a tourist, gave me the willies. Having found out that they have broken the law to prove their points, led by MPP Hillier, doesn't seem right. I know the animal huggers go overboard, too. You are right, that individuals give groups a bad name.

The Landowners Association contacted me, and wanted to use some of my photos, but I was reluctant.
In Muskoka, where we lived, the Muskoka Landowners' Association (loggers) was pitted against the Muskoka Ratepayers (summer residents). There was a certain amount of balance to that, but when a summer tourist became Muskoka Lakes mayor, there have been many conflicts.
Ultimately, we all must balance settlement with land use, the environment, and the exploitation of land, water, air, with the right of those to earn a living. However, it was the development of the logging industry and overfishing that decimated the fishing industry in Georgian Bay. We need to learn these lessons; balance the needs of stakeholders.

Kellie said...
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