New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

ConservationPosted 4/28/11
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NYSOA Asks NY Parks Agency to Address Cat Problem
Andy Mason, NYSOA Conservation Committee Chair
Published in the July 2010 issue of NY Birders

In a letter to NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash, NYSOA has requested that the agency take steps to eliminate feral cat colonies from NY's state parks.

This is not the first time we have been involved in this issue. In 2003-04, the then Federation of NY State Bird Clubs participated in a collaborative process with the Parks Office and other interested parties to develop a policy that called for a final goal of zero cats in state parks. The Parks Office recognized that feral cats have a serious negative effect on the natural resources of public lands under their control, and that birds in particular are threatened by cats.

In a number of parks, well-meaning individuals set up shelters and feeding stations for the cats, which kept the population high, and provided drop-off points for unwanted cats. There were even reports that park personnel were assisting in maintaining these feeding stations.

With a well-supported policy in place, it appeared that the Parks Office was making significant progress toward resolving or at least significantly reducing this problem. However, reports from birders and local bird clubs indicate that little if anything has changed. Longstanding feeding stations in Long Island parks and elsewhere remain active and the numbers of cats undiminished.

Cat near bird feederThe threats of feral cats on wild birds are well documented. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that nationwide, cats kill hundreds ofmillions of birds each year. Feral cats that hunt for much of their own food likely account for a high proportion of that toll.

NY's state parks are important refuge areas for wildlife, including birds. In addition, several parks provide critical habitat for endangered, threatened or otherwise at-risk species such as Piping Plover, terns and grassland birds. The ongoing presence of wild cats is contrary to the Parks Office's claim of responsible stewardship of the natural resources under their charge.

NYSOA members and other conservationists can help by contacting Commissioner Ash (Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 1, Albany NY, 12238), and asking that she make removal of feral cat colonies a priority in her agency. More information on the problems of outdoor cats and birds can be found at www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats. The NYSOA letter to the Commissioner can be found on the conservation page of the NYSOA web site, www.nybirds.org.

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