USDA and Fish and Wildlife Service Commence Trapping and Killing Cats on Florida's Big Pine Key
"It's not fair to kill some cat because it was abandoned."
-- Nancy Warner of Forgotten Felines
Ignoring the protests of cat lovers, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Monday began trapping and removing cats from in and around the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. (See map above.)
The cats are being removed because they are allegedly preying upon the marsh rabbit, which has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1990. Only an estimated seventy-five to one-hundred-fifty of the medium-sized dark-brown cottontails with grayish-white stomachs remain on Big Pine Key. (See photo below.)
Last year, cat haters in Congress appropriated $50,000 for the cats' removal not only from Big Pine Key but also from federal and state parks on Key Largo where they are alleged to be decimating the population of wood rats and cotton mice. Ironically, cats were first brought to the Keys to control the rodent population.
On Big Pine Key, the USDA is setting out thirty to forty 36 x 12 x 12-inch no-kill traps that will be baited with, inter alia, cat food, sardines, marshmallows, and electronic birds that sing. The cats will then be taken to either the Big Pine Key Animal Shelter on Industrial Road or to Stand Up for Animals in Marathon.
Those judged to be either sickly or injured will be killed upon arrival. Domestic cats will be held for seven days in order to give their owners a chance to reclaim them. In order to facilitate reunions, photographs of the cats will be posted both at the shelters and at the visitors center at the refuge.
Unclaimed cats and those deemed suitable for adoption will be sterilized, vaccinated, and then offered to the public. Since very few tame cats are ever adopted and almost no feral ones, Forgotten Felines of Marathon, Caring for Cats of Islamorada, and Whiskers and Paws Forever of Monroe County have publicly stated that they will help the shelters to find sanctuaries and other locations where the cats can be safely released.
"We don't want to kill cats. We want to preserve rabbits," the USDA's Bernice Constantin told the Miami Herald on May 20th. (See "Cat Roundup Aims to Save Endangered Bunny.")
"Although there are rumors to the contrary, there are absolutely no plans to euthanize the cats," Sandy Brown of Friends and Volunteers of Refuges (FAVOR) told The Keynoter on May 9th. (See "Feral-Cat Roundup Starts This Month.") She is, however, a devotee of the diabolical American Bird Conservancy's (ABC) Cats Indoors campaign and is therefore probably lying.
Even Anne Morkill, manager of the refuge, swore to the Miami Herald that the cats will be "humanely trapped alive." She was careful, however, not to specify how long they will remain in that condition.
All of these assurances have not, with good reason, quelled the fears of cat lovers. Alley Cat Allies, for instance, has launched an online campaign to save the cats but it so far has been unsuccessful. This shameless organization even has stooped so low as to grovel at the feet of smut purveyor and despoiler of women Hugh Hefner for whom Sylvilagus palustris hefneri is named. (See its May 23rd press release entitled "Alley Cat Allies Appeals to Hugh Hefner to Protect Feral Cats in the Florida Keys.")
Alley Cat Allies' declaration on its web site that its raison d'etre is to sterilize all cats, domestic, stray, and feral, stands in marked contrast to its professed concern about saving cats from exterminators in that, if successful, its mass sterilization plan will eventually wipe out the species. Sterilization has its place but it is not for every cat.
Even Forgotten Felines' Nancy Warner, who is participating in the removal, is not convinced of the sincerity of the feds. "It's not fair to kill some cat because it was abandoned," she told the Miami Herald in the article cited supra.
The avowals made by the authorities do not cover all exigencies. For instance, there are not any outside monitors to ensure that the trappers do not execute the cats in the field, as Animal Control officers so often do. Secondly, since the traps will be checked only once every twelve hours, the cats could be attacked and killed by fire ants during the interim. Thirdly, rabbits and other animals also could be inadvertently trapped.
More importantly, sickly and injured cats deserve medical treatment not coups d'grace. Also, there is not any guarantee that the cat protection groups assisting the feds will be able to find suitable locations to release the cats back into the wild. The fact that none of these concerns have been addressed proves that the feds' assurances are meaningless.
No matter how the situation is analyzed, the bottom line is that a large number of the cats are going to be killed one way or another. Even those that are lucky enough to survive will be traumatized by being trapped, sterilized, and bandied about like Flying Dutchmen. Others will die from overdoses of anesthesia and some will contract diseases at shelters which will provide their bloodthirsty captors with a convenient excuse to kill them.
Furthermore, although both the Miami Herald and the United States Navy make a big deal out of the fact that twenty cats were successfully trapped at the Key West Naval Air Station on Boca Chica during 2005 and 2006, they purposefully omit any reference to the fate of the felines.
It can be safely assumed, however, that the Navy, like all branches of the despicable United States military, kills every cat that it traps. (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2006 entitled "Military Killing Cats and Dogs by the Tens of Thousands as Imperialistic America Attempts to Conquer the World.")
Only a few weeks ago the United States Army in Iraq confiscated a cat named Taji and her four kittens from Army National Guard PFC Ronee Smith of Papillion, Nebraska and promptly killed all of them. Deployed with the 867th Corps Support Battalion, Smith had kept the cat and kittens in her living quarters at her base near the city of Taji for the past five months. Worst still, at the time of the seizure and subsequent murders, Smith was working with Military Mascots and the Nebraska Humane Society in an attempt to bring the cats to America before her tour of duty ends this summer.
"It could have been prevented," Smith's mother, Carla Buckner, told the Bellevue Leader of Bellevue, Nebraska on May 17th. (See "The Cat Isn't Coming Back.") "She was getting help and had the support lined up. It was horrible."
Although it is not known if any soldiers have been able to bring home cats from Iraq, at least one dog has made it out alive. (See Cat Defender post of October 26, 2005 entitled "Love Conquers All Obstacles as Soldier Locates His Lost Dog in Iraq and Brings It Home to Maryland.")
Marsh rabbits used to be found in abundance throughout the Lower Keys from Big Pine to Key West but development has severely reduced their habitat. Hefner became interested in their plight back in the 1980s and donated money which produced research that identified them as a distinct subspecies from their more common cousins found throughout southeast America.
The present campaign to get rid of the cats was in large part fueled by a 1995 study conducted for the USFWS by Beth Forys (See photo above) and Susan Jewell that concluded that domestic cats were responsible for fifty-three per cent of marsh rabbit mortalities. (See "They're Not Multiplying Like Rabbits.") The the only thing known about their methodology, however, is that the results were based on rabbits that they trapped and equipped with radio collars.
Although it is highly unlikely that Forys and Jewell could ever be persuaded to come clean, it would be interesting to know how many rabbits that they killed, intentionally or unintentionally, through their trapping and tagging regimen. (See Cat Defender post of May 4, 2006 entitled "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals.")
The authors do admit, however, that birds, snakes, and raccoons also prey upon rabbits as well as motorists and hunters. Development, pesticides, and more intense hurricanes brought on by global warming are also having a deleterious effect on the rabbits' mortality rate.
Recent violent hurricanes also have displaced a number of Big Pine Key's five-thousand residents and this has left many cats homeless. Forys and Jewell, like all wildlife proponents and bird lovers, are far too dishonest to disclose this petit fait, let alone to ever display an ounce of concern for cats.
Once all of these additional factors are taken into consideration, it is difficult to see how removing the cats by itself is going to save the rabbits. As it has been the case down throughout history, they are simply being made to pay the ultimate price for the misdeeds of both man and other animals.
In particular, the USDA has been going after cats for a long time. Most recently it has been targeting Ernest Hemingway's cats down the road in Key West. (See Cat Defender posts of August 3, 2006 and January 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "USDA Fines Hemingway Memorial in Key West $200 a Day for Exhibiting Papa's Polydactyl Cats Without a License" and "Papa Hemingway's Polydactyl Cats Face New Threats from Both the USDA and Their Caretakers.")
It is also the statutory responsibility of the USDA to monitor how cats and other animals are treated by vivisectors at universities, governmental laboratories, and private institutions, but yet it steadfastly refuses to lift to finger in order to stop these monsters from torturing, butchering, and killing tens of thousands of cats each year. The USDA can deny that it hates cats until the cows come home, but its actions tell an entirely different story.
Moreover, it does little or nothing to stamp out corruption down on the farm. Farmers receive in excess of $21 billion in welfare from the taxpayers each year plus whatever else they can steal while the USDA looks the other way. It also has failed miserably at protecting the nation's food supply as the recent deaths of thousands of cats and dogs and the sickening of numerous individuals has demonstrated. (See Washington Post, May 20, 2007, "Tainted Chinese Imports Common.")
Wildlife proponents, whether at the federal or state level, are even more antagonistic toward cats than the USDA. For instance, officials in Washington State refused to intervene last year when raccoons and coyotes were killing domestic cats and dogs. (See Cat Defender posts of August 28, 2006 and October 2, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene" and "Coyotes, Cheered on by Wildlife Officials, Join Raccoons in Killing Cats and Dogs in Washington State.")
The USFWS is in fact so bloodthirsty that it even slaughters the very animals that it is pledged to protect. For instance, it kills close to three million wild animals each year either at the urging of capitalists or as part of its own sinister plan to mould nature to its liking. Beavers, prairie dogs, bears, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, foxes, opossums, raccoons, birds, and even rabbits are some of its prime targets. (See Cat Defender post of September 15, 2005 entitled "United States Government Exterminates Millions of Wild Animals at the Behest of Capitalists.")
Even those animals that it does not kill directly often fall victim to hunters because the agency has removed their federal protection. A good case in point is the impending mass slaughter of gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and the Mexican gray wolf in the southwest. (See Environmental News Network, December 20, 2006, "Feds to Start Removing Wolf Protections" and Center for Biological Diversity press release of May 14, 2007 entitled "Conservationists Request Suspension of Mexican Wolf Killing Policy.")
More often than not, the decision to delist a species is made for political reasons. (See Center for Biological Diversity press release of May 23, 2007 entitled "Julie MacDonald Scandal Grows: Former Interior Official May Have Wrongfully Deleted Emails from Lobbyists.")
The USFWS has even done a poor job of managing the deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) population at National Key Deer Refuge. While it is true that the animals have rebounded from an all-time low of twenty-seven back in 1957 when the refuge was established to around eight-hundred today, mortality rates remain high. (See photo above of a doe and her male fawn.)
Par exemple, an astounding seventy per cent of their deaths are caused by collisions with motorists which are themselves the direct result of roadside feeding by the ninety-thousand tourists who annually visit the refuge. As is the case with marsh rabbits, habitat loss caused by development and hurricanes also claim the lives of countless others.
If the USFWS were serious about protecting rabbits, deer, and other wildlife, it would ban both developers and tourists from the island and thus allow the animals to live in safety and in peace. Such a policy would also put an end to cat dumping.
The situation on Big Pine Key is analogous to the one that prevails further south in the Galapagos Islands. Development and tourism are destroying both but the only action that wildlife officials are willing to take is to kill cats and other domestic animals that were brought to these ecologically sensitive areas against their wills.
As it should be obvious, the entire conservation effort on Big Pine Key is a total sham. It is a profitable fraud, however, in that the refuge's thirteen employees share an annual budget in excess of one-million dollars. More importantly, they get to kill cats with impunity.
In conclusion, if the cats must be removed from Big Pine Key, the job should have been given to bona fide cat advocates with the stipulation that none of them was to be harmed under any circumstances. Also, a sanctuary should have been designated beforehand so as to eliminate the need for confining the animals for lengthy periods of time in either cages or shelters.
The petit fait that none of these safeguards were undertaken is just one more proof that ailurophobia, not conservation, is the motivating factor behind the cats' expulsion and needless deaths.
Photos: Florida-Keys.fl.us (map), Neil Perry of the USFWS (marsh rabbit), Eckerd College (Beth Forys), and Big Pine Key.com (deer).