Endangered Birds Versus Feral Cats In New Jersey

Piping Plover

When a cat kills a bird, there typically isn’t a town-wide controversy when it occurs.

A New Jersey seaside town, Cape May, is dealing with a heated cat versus bird situation. But this isn’t just any other bird. The bird that is being affected is the piping plover.

This endangered bird is a sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches. The piping plovers breed on East Coast beaches during warm weather. Their predators include foxes, gulls, raccoons and cats. These birds have closed beaches, stopped development projects and even stopped a fireworks display in Maine to protect their habitat.

There are only 115 piping plovers in New Jersey and their declining numbers are being blamed on roaming feral cats in the area. Due to the endangered status of the piping plovers, the federal government may step in to help on the behalf of the birds. Cat lovers are worried that cats found roaming will be euthanized to save the piping plovers. On other hand, bird lovers are afraid that if nothing is done, this rare bird will become extinct.

Also, Cape May is one of the prime bird-watching spots in North America. The World Series of Birding is held here annually. Since the bird watching industry brings in about $2 billion a year to New Jersey’s economy, the piping plovers may win this battle.

Cape May residents are also divided over the issue.

“I think the cats are more of a nuisance than anything else,” said resident Bill Schemel. “They’re killing endangered birds that belong out here. Cats are not part of the natural environment. They’re here because someone’s cat had a litter and they dumped them out in the woods.”

“This is a very emotional issue; this really is a cat town,” said resident Pat Peckham. “I think they should leave the cats where they are. I’m a firm believer in letting nature take its course.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is analyzing this cat versus bird situation in this seaside town. Some of their recommendations include requiring cats to be licensed, prohibit roaming cats and abandoning cats, and prohibit feeding any wildlife including feral cats.

For the past 12 years, Cape May has tried to keep the cat population in check with their trap, neuter and release program. Except in May, a fire destroyed the facility where the local animal rescue group kept the feral cats. A replacement place has not been found yet, so fewer cats have been picked up. And this means more cats that can possibly affect the well-being of the piping plover.

Eric Stiles, vice president of the New Jersey Audubon Society, says that it doesn’t have to be cats versus birds. It can be cats and birds. He is working on a program to satisfy both bird and cat lovers. The program would include bird and cat advocacy groups working together to find the locations of the piping plovers and the feral cat colonies. Cats near piping plover habitats could be relocated, while others that are further away could stay undisturbed.

Source: Washington Post

55 Responses to “Endangered Birds Versus Feral Cats In New Jersey”

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  1. Dave says:

    Blade, My apologies. I “was” thinking you were in the United States! I do see your point, but I as I said above just what are we going to do with 90+ million feral cats. I’ll put it in this perspective, If you had one or two ants in your house, it would not be a big deal, but if you had 90 million that would be a tad different. I do understand the fact that man has encrouched on our wild life areas and over here there is alot being done to stop this. I am in the military stationed on a small island and the island is infested with feral and stays. and it isn’t just the coast line, it’s the wooded areas, the housing areas, and even if you wanted to catch some of these cats it would be very difficult. These cats are also contributing to the death of our wild life problem. My research on this problem has shown that almost EVERY state here has a problem. I do understand your feelings but as I said in the past comments, what do we do??? People have been using the TNR for years but it has had “NO” affect on controling the population, if anything the population has exploded. TNR may work in certain areas where the population is minimul and natural forces also aid in control, so why does the cat population still continue to rise?

  2. Blade says:

    Addressing the root cause is the only answer to the cat over population problem. You can trap cats and take them be killed, every week or every day for all eternity but they will be always return as long as there are irresponsible people out there that aren’t spaying and neutering their cats. That may sit well with some people but to anyone with an ounce of humanity it does not.

    TNR IS successful but is a long term commitment and it needs everybody in the community who has cats to participate in there own way. Those who think it’s OK to let their pet cat “just have one litter” are major culprits here - in just a few months time, that litter will be reproducing too.
    I know that this does not solve the immediate problems facing your Piping Plover but their decline has not just popped up overnight - there was evidence to show widespread decline of these birds way back in 1985.
    The major cause of this was the birds losing their natural habitat - it’s the same with most species of birds that are on the decline and are now endangered. But with the piping plover, as always, it’s been allowed to get to ‘crisis point’ and a ‘quick fix’ is needed to make everyone feel better and that they’re doing something to help these birds. It’s too little too late!

    Cat people - PLEASE get your cats spayed and neutered for THEIR sakes as well as the birds and the cat-haters!
    THOUSANDS of cats are being put to death everyday because there are simply TOO MANY! Why add to this death toll?

    Cat proof fencing does exist, by the way. Unless they are Super-Cat, they cannot tunnel beneath it as has to be set beneath ground level to a depth of at least 12 inches.

  3. Dave says:

    Blade, First I would like to say, you must think I have no humanity. On the contrary, I’m a God fearing individual and have quite a love for all animals. “BUT” you must remember, these are animals, not kids or people. Sure nobody likes to see anything put to death but is it fair to keep them alive, fending for food, getting desease, ticks, fleas, possibly rabies, ear mites, cat cough, feline lukemia, and possibly spreading these things to other animals. I truly understand some people see these cats as worth saving but your only compounding the problem that exists. Your right people are irresponsible!!! and will always be, “think of this” If people knew that by releasing a cat into socitey it will be euthinized, maybe people will think twice before doing so. And as I said many paragraphs back, If you have a cat and take care of it, I have no problem what so ever with you or the cat. But these free roaming cats are a parisite any way you look at it. It costs every one enormous amounts of money that is not needed to be spent. Our efforts should be concentrated on helping human needs, cancer research, child illness, etc… not on a bunch of cats that do nothing but eat, crap, kill and reproduce.

  4. Dave says:

    To all, after a visit to the local community park that I have mentioned in the above passages I feel compelled to write this, the feral cat lovers have struck again!!! This AM after taking my dog for a walk I counted two maybe more kittens! This is exactly why the population will never diminish. And what will be done about it? “NOTHING” !!!… Because all the bleeding hearts will say, Leave them alone, there not hurting anything. This has been going on for at least 20 years here, and I know a cat does not live that long! I counted at least nine adults and saw two kittens, I’m sure there are more. Here is a perfect example of whats going on not only in my town, but around the world! And you wonder why people like me are so upset with these people who “MUST” take care of these feral cats. I applaud those of you who take the correct responsibility and do the right thing. For the rest of you who think this is “no big deal”, YOU NEED YOUR HEAD EXAMINED!

  5. Cape May Council Compromises On Feral Cat Ordinance | Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats says:

    […] May, New Jersey is one of North America’s prime bird-watching spots, and bird lovers have been trying to protect the endangered shore birds like the piping plover from feral cats on the beach. Cat advocates wanted to leave the cats at the […]

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