Scientists Trapping Feral Cats to Save Threatened Rabbits

The population of endangered marsh rabbits in the Lower Keys, Florida is dwindling. Their Latin name is Sylvilagus palustris hefneri in honor of Hugh Hefner because he financed research for these rabbits and they were placed on the endangered species list in 1990. Really.

To help keep the marsh rabbits from being extinct, biologists are using a cat trapping program to save the rabbits. 30-40 traps were recently set out to attract cats that come near the marsh rabbit’s habitat in the hopes of decreasing the number of cats that prey on the rabbits. Some people are concerned about the welfare of the cats and even have protested by dressing up in cat suits and holding protest signs near the area. Officials say that the cats will be “humanely trapped alive” and brought to a no-kill shelter in the area.

13 Responses to “Scientists Trapping Feral Cats to Save Threatened Rabbits”

  1. Cynthia says:

    I feel what they are doing is wrong. Unlike a “stray cat” these adult feral cats are difficult to socialized enough to addopted.

    Article from Alley Cat Allies (ACA)

    Alley Cat Allies is dedicated to changing ineffective animal control practices like trap and remove, and to providing resources for the thousands of caring individuals and organizations in the United States and Canada who have stepped forward to feed, sterilize, and care for feral cat colonies.

    Alley Cat Allies has a solution that not only reduces feral cat populations, but also improves and extends the lives of colony members: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

    TNR is a comprehensive plan where entire feral colonies are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated, and neutered by veterinarians. Kittens and cats that are tame enough to be adopted are placed in good homes. Adult cats are returned to their familiar habitat to live out their lives under the watchful care of sympathetic neighborhood volunteers.
    TNR works. Cat populations are gradually reduced. Nuisance behaviors associated with breeding, such as the yowling of females or the spraying of toms, are virtually eliminated. Disease and malnutrition are greatly reduced. The cats live healthy, safe, and peaceful lives in their territories.

    The Truth About Feral Cats

    A stray cat is not a feral cat.
    A stray is a cat who has been abandoned or who has strayed from home and become lost. Stray cats can usually be re-socialized and adopted.

    A feral cat is an unsocialized cat.

    Either he was born outside and never lived with humans, or he is a house cat who has strayed from home and over time has thrown off the effects of domestication and reverted to a wild state.

    Feral cats should not be taken to local shelters to be adopted.

    Feral cats are not pet cats, and they will be killed at most shelters. Because they’re unadoptable, they sometimes don’t even make it to the shelter, but are killed in the animal control truck. Even no-kill shelters are not able to place feral cats in homes.

    Feral kittens can be adopted.

    Feral kittens can often be tamed and placed in homes, but they must be socialized in their first weeks of life. This is a critical window and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable.

    Feral cats have about the same lifespan as pet cats.

    And they contract diseases at about the same low rate. The incidence of disease in feral cat colonies is no higher than among owned cats.

    Feral cats are not the cause of wildlife depletion.

    Studies show that the overwhelming cause of wildlife depletion is destruction of natural habitat due to man-made structures, chemical pollution, pesticides, and drought — not feral cats.

    Trap and remove doesn’t work.

    Not only would you have to continue to remove cats, this process is extremely costly. Other cats simply move in to take advantage of the available resources and they breed prolifically, quickly forming a new colony. This “vacuum effect” is well documented.

    Trap, neuter, and return does work.

    No more kittens. Their numbers gradually go down. The annoying behaviors of mating cats, such as yowling or fighting, stop. The cats are vaccinated and they are fed on a regular schedule. This ongoing care creates a safety net for both the cats and the community.

  2. G in INdiana says:

    We do the same thing around here on our farm. Cats are an INVASIVE species, just like house sparrows and starlings. They are not native animals and do not belong in native wildlife areas.
    I blame the IDIOT humans who released the cats they no longer want to care for, not the cats themselves. Rehabbing and rehoming them can be accomplished but if not, they need to be released in an area that is not home to endangered species that are native and have lived there long before house cats were on these shores.

  3. G in INdiana says:

    Another INVASIVE species FL is trying to eradicate…

    Florida tries to wipe out cat-sized African rats
    Thu May 24, 2007 3:44PM EDT

    By Laura Myers

    GRASSY KEY, Florida (Reuters) - Deep in the heart of the Florida Keys, wildlife officials are laying bait laced with poison to try to wipe out a colony of enormous African rats that could threaten crops and other animals.
    U.S. federal and state officials are beginning the final phase of a two-year project to eradicate the Gambian pouched rats, which can grow to the size of a cat and began reproducing in the remote area about eight years ago.
    “This is the only place in the United States where this is occurring,” said Gary Witmer, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins,
    “They don’t belong here and they need to be controlled.”

  4. mike says:

    come on really you would have the cute fuzzy bunny minding its own business be killed of by wild cats. i a cat love and all but come on people. feral cats are an invasive and very damaging problem in some areas and while consideration should be taken to try not to just kill them all some losses among a non indangered poplulation of animals versus what like a remaining i believe 50-60 animals is just unbelievable.

    save the bunnies. help the cats
    but save the bunnies

  5. Cynthia says:

    Did any of you see the article from Alley Cat Allies?
    Or maybe visit their site? They have listings all over the country that help these cats by reducing their population by spaying and neutering.

    “Feral cats are not the cause of wildlife depletion.
    Studies show that the overwhelming cause of wildlife depletion is destruction of natural habitat due to man-made structures, chemical pollution, pesticides, and drought — not feral cats.
    Trap and remove doesn’t work!”

    Most of these captured Feral cats end up being euthanized. A wild animal is extremely difficult to tame unless you get them as kittens.

  6. CF says:

    Sorry, at the vet where I work we have alot of people that do the TNR…..its a shame to the animals….we neuter them, vaccinate them and then turn them loose to fend for themselves…what alife. It would be better to trap them and put them to sleep then to allow them to have to search every day for food, hunt and kill native species, get killed by cars, disease etc…and the stuff I read, “if you kill them , others will return” This is not true if you get rid of them and stop it in the first place.
    When I moved into my new house, there were apts a few streets over and the cat population was horrid, I trapped many of them and ALL of the males were FIV positive, they were all put down. I next trapped and took to the pound over 50 cats, guess, what the cats are gone….50 new ones did not magically appear…and the new strays are now trapped by the apts and turned over to AC.
    Our squirrel and bird population has grown in the neighborhood and flower beds are not ruined.
    I would rather see a cat killed than have to fend the rest of their life, looking for food, killing wildlife etc.

  7. High Note says:

    Almost every farmer I know loves to have as many cats around as they can. They usually end up getting killed by the coyotes. Many farmers have a very hard time trying to keep them around because they get killed.
    it is true in a community or small town it takes only a few cats to make many!!and then many more. There has to be a stopping point! Yes the society that catches them and nuters them and sets them free again is great to me! At least they have a chance in this world. Maybe it is not an easy one but a chance! They all want to live and will fight for their last breath on this earth and they should be given that chance even if it is in the wild. I have tamed furrow cats. It takes time but they come around after a while because it is free food and easy to get and they finally start depending on it and become more friendly. I never picked them up or touched them. We only wanted them around like the farmers did for the mice population. We found a mother cat one day that had been killed and heard her babies crying. All of them were too far gone but one. I brought it in and started feeding it. His eyes were not even open yet.
    He turned out to be a very protective cat and a very effectionate one to us. Of course the first thing we did was take him to the vet and get him checked out since some cats are carriers of ring worms and things. He grew up and grew old with us.

  8. petslave says:

    Well I doubt any F&W biologist is taking stray cats to a no-kill shelter. they usually kill ‘vermin’. especially those messing with endangered species. The marsh rabbits are at that SERIOUSLY all time low number, in danger of extinction, because of HUMANS taking over & destroying their habitat, running over them with cars & introducing foreign animals that kill them.

    I always find it amazing how we say that this species or that species is non-native & has to be killed off because it is affecting native wildlife. We put them there, & we humans also do SOOO much more to kill off native species than the introduced species do. Most of these introduced species only live in areas where people are, where people have altered the native landscape drastically. You don’t see cats or starlings out in the middle of vast wilderness. Yet no one ever says, lets cull people, or lets tear down all these houses & shopping centers & put back the endangered species habitat.

    Yes the cats may be killing off the remaining tiny tiny rabbit population, but I doubt a population that size will recover & thrive with the removal of feral cats. The next step will be to trap the rabbits, put them in an intensive breeding program, & reintroduce them here & there as numbers are built up. This will take millions of dollars, as you will see if you read about any endangered species breeding program undertaken so far. The root problem here is the human species & our greed & need to take over the planet. We are both killing the cats & killing the rabbits.

  9. petslave says:

    I have 2 ferals that I adopted as kittens & they are sweet cats but still very skittish & can be hard to handle if needed. My sweetest one has to put in a muzzle & zipped up in a bag at the vet. Taming them, or better, working with them to accept, and even love me, was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever done.

    The adults are much different–whatever state they are in when you start working with them, they don’t improve much beyond that. True wild ferals are worse than any wild animal out there, pound for pound, & can run up & around the walls of a room. And forget trying to actually handle them like a normal cat. But some ferals are much more friendly & trusting. A woman I know rescues ferals & places many of the less fearful ones as barn cats on local farms. She has a large fenced area with a few heated sheds on her acerage where those not adopted live out their lives. Another group nearby has a similar set up with separate huge fenced spaces & buildings for ferals, FIV & FELV cats, old cats, disabled cats & adoptable cats. It can be done & this country does have the resources for places like this all over. It just depends on whether we want to “bother” with it or not, whether this is where we want to spend the money.

  10. JJ 2 says:

    First of all, the fact in this case is that it is human encroachment onto their habitat that is threatening those rabbits, not the cats. The cats are being used as a scapegoat. Secondly, it has been proven time and time again that when man tries to balance things out in nature by eradicating one species to save another, the mess only gets worse. It never solves the situation. There was a case where they sprayed feline leukemia virus from a plane hoping to eradicate the feral cats on some island, I think it was off of South Africa. They wanted to save some species of rare bird. Well, after the cats were gone, the place was overrun with huge rats, who then began feasting on the birds instead.

  11. Aser Al-Kady says:

    i’d like to say that im not glad of the way of treating street cats and dogs in Egypt, we need here an authority to controll that , People here in Egypt treat animals as they are nothing , they respect thier cars more than the innocent animal , They learn children how to throw the street dogs by stones, Egyptian citizin has no mercy against street dogs and cats, please help them to live in peace , i really do cry when i see a dog killed or poisoned because its just homeless and powerless and born to be a street dog.
    Please we need that authority here , and im one of many will support that authority, to let the innocent animals live in peace.

  12. Federal watchdog says:

    They added native raccoons to the list of enemies without any supportive data to show that a single marsh rabbit has ever been killed by a raccoon on Big Pine Key. The one researcher that reported a possible case of predation has disavowed the claim and does not want her work misused by the refuge. The rabbits and raccoons have lived together for 1000’s of years… strange then that the raccoon didn’t wipe them out eons ago. Our federal dollars at work; $40,000 has already been spent by the refuge for trapping– now 2 years later, no report has been issued on the project’s success. Trust us, they say, we are scientists and we know better. Killing a native species is sound conservation (sounds Orwellian to me). Fish and Wildlife still kills hawks in Puerto Rico, one past researcher proudly proclaims in a recent letter. Another former researcher says be like Spock and use logic (yeah, right) not emotion.

  13. Gary says:

    Look, if it were a dog killing whatever wild animals it wanted to and committing a serious and possible irreversible act, you guys would be up in arms against the “killer dogs”. Be honest, cats like any animal, need to be under control at all times and their behavior also needs to be controlled.
    Ohhhhhhh and the fur will fly…..

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