Ravenous Coyotes, Cat-Haters, and Old Man Winter All Want Her Dead, Buried, and Gone but Brave Little Half Mask Is Defying the Odds
"The days of the cat colony are over, one way or another. Those that we don't find homes for will be eaten."
-- Robert Brydges
High atop the rocky bluffs of Lake Ontario in Toronto's Scarborough district a lovely black and white female known as Half Mask is maintaining a lonely vigil. She is the sole survivor of the once thriving Bluffers Park TNR colony that in its heyday numbered around twenty-five members. (See photos of her above and below.)
That was before coyotes, cat-haters, and Toronto Animal Services (TAS) declared war on the cats. Having rebuffed all attempts to trap and relocate her, this latter-day Robinson Crusoe of the feline world so far has been wily enough to avoid both the ravenous coyotes and area residents who are bent upon her destruction.
It is anybody's guess as to how long her luck is going to hold out and since apparently none of her caretakers can get within ten feet of her it would appear that her fate has been sealed one way or the other. For although dogs belong to people, cats belong to places.
Nevertheless, every time that she fails to show up for one of her daily meals the hearts of her devoted caretakers skip a beat or two. Otherwise, she appears to be the very picture of health and if her brave little heart pangs for the camaraderie of her long-departed mates she certainly does not show it.
Although it is not known exactly how long cats have been living in Bluffers Park, the present colony has been fed, watered, sheltered, and protected since 2004 by Robert Brydges and his associates. Over the course of the years, their excellent work has greatly benefited from a generous donation made by an unidentified elderly woman and that has made it feasible to get the cats sterilized, vaccinated, and medicated when necessary.
(I never have seen) "a colony as plump, healthy, well-groomed and happy as the Bluffers Park gang," Jack Lakey of the Toronto Star wrote in a column on June 19, 2009. (See "Fur Flies over Bluffers Park Cats.") That is indeed not only high praise for their caretakers but completely destroys as well the myth that homeless cats lead short, miserable existences. (See photo of him on the right below.)
They also were sans doute a hardy group of cats in order to have survived Toronto's notoriously cold and snowy winters. (See photos below of some of the cats in the snow.)
They were not, however, any match for the pack of hungry coyotes (canis latrans) that unexpectedly descended upon the park last February. Press reports fail to disclose either where they came from, how many of them there are, or why they chose last winter to set up residence in the park.
Two of the cats were eaten by the predators during the first week of February and that forced Brydges and his helpers to embark upon an ambitious emergency trap and removal plan that saw them successfully remove twenty cats. In order to achieve that herculean task, they mounted all-night patrols in the ice-cold park where they used sticks, flashlights, and whistles in order to chase away the coyotes.
"The days of the cat colony are over, one way or another," Brydges declared sang-froid to the Toronto Star on February 8th. (See "Coyotes Dining on Bluffers' Feral Cats.") "Those that we don't find homes for will be eaten."
Two of those removed were immediately adopted by an unidentified woman while the remainder wound up in basements. Not unexpectedly, the free-spirited cats did not at first cotton to life indoors but are now said to be making progress and that petit fait has given Brydges hope that homes eventually will be secured for all of them. (See photo further down the page of him feeding the cats.)
"All of these cats, though labeled feral, are tame," he told the Toronto Star in the February 8th article cited supra. "All would make beautiful pets if given a chance."
Although considered to be nothing less than heresy by none other than Becky Robinson of Alley Cat Allies, the countless volunteers who actually attend to colonies of homeless cats know only too well the accuracy of Brydges' assessment. In reality, a cat is a cat and all of them are fully capable of being socialized.
The only difference is that some of them require more time, patience, and effort than most individuals are willing to invest in them. Policemen, Animal Control officers, death camp operators, and others who earn their daily bread by exterminating cats en masse quite naturally do not have so much as a second to invest in socialization. Consequently, labels such as feral, stray, homeless, aggressive, and sick are arbitrarily assigned to impecunious cats as convenient excuses in order to justify extinguishing their fragile lives.
On the other hand, Robinson and others are most assuredly on the right track when they point out the numerous obstacles involved in relocating a colony of cats. In addition to the arduous task of trapping them, either a new location or individual homes must be procured for them tout de suite.
If neither of those options are viable, the cats often wind up being warehoused in cages for months. Nevertheless, once either a pack of coyotes or the authorities put out a contract on their tiny heads they must be trapped and removed regardless of the cost.
The deaths of the two cats and the demise of the colony are all the more outrageous in that the coyotes were baited into attacking the cats by someone who piled roast beef, cold cuts, and hot dogs near their winterized shelters. The perpetrator of this despicable act of ailurophobia even went so far as to leave behind a trail of dog food that led right up to the cathouses.
A similar incident occurred a few years back in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park when individuals were witnessed feeding hot dogs and raw meat to coyotes. In contrast to what occurred in Bluffers Park, it is believed that those individuals were motivated by a concern for the animals' well-being as opposed to indirectly targeting cats.
The culprit in Scarborough has not been publicly identified but suspicion centers on a boater who claims that the cats scratched her dog back in 2009. Advocates for the cats counter that it actually was she who sicced her dog not only on the cats but on another dog as well.
While it is impossible to say what actually transpired without having been present, both logic and history are on the cats' side. (See Cat Defender posts of October 18, 2009, October 23, 2009 and March 24, 2010, entitled, respectively, "Minneapolis Is Working Overtime Trying to Kill an Octogenarian's Cat Named Hoppy for Defending His Turf Against Canine Intruders," "Essex Welfare Bum Who Sicced His Dog on Cats and Beat Them with His Cane Is Now Pretending to Be the Victim of an Assault," and "Seven-Month-Old Bailey Is Fed to a Lurcher by a Group of Sadistic Teens in Search of Cheap Thrills in Northern Ireland.")
The dog owner's complaint did succeed, however, in bringing down the long and diseased arm of the law on the cats and their caretakers in the form of TAS. In short, TAS ordered Brydges to either license the cats or it would trap and kill them.
The organization's Eletta Purdy even went so far as to trot out the familiar red herrings that the shy and reclusive cats posed not only a health hazard to the public but were likely to attack children. Spirited opposition led by Lakey ultimately forced Purdy not only to rescind her kill and remove edict but to even deny ever issuing it in the first place.
"That would not be something that we would ever normally say," she told the Toronto Star in the June 19, 2009 article cited supra. She conceivably could be telling the truth in a roundabout, dishonest fashion in that it is customary for Animal Control officers to strike without warning like thieves in the night.
Even when TAS is not out for feline blood the best that it has to offer homeless cats is benign neglect. That is what seventy-two-year-old Elizabeth Hayman of Sandrift Square in Scarborough found out last autumn when she complained to the agency about a dozen homeless cats frequenting her yard. (See Toronto Community News, October 14, 2010, "Senior Concerned for Feral Cats in Her Yard.")
Because of its past record of horrific abuse and neglect, handing over the Bluffers Park cats to the Toronto Humane Society's (THS) notorious River Street shelter was totally out of the question. In particular, a raid conducted by the Ontario SPCA (OSPCA) in November of 2009 even discovered the mummified remains of a cat in the ceiling. (See the gruesome photo below.)
"It sends chills down my spine," Kevin Strooband, the OSPCA's lead investigator, told the Toronto Sun on November 28, 2009. (See "Humane Society: 'It Seems Like a House of Horrors'.")
As it later was revealed, the THS baited the trap and then completely forgot all about it and that act of gross negligence robbed the cat of its life due to a complete lack of both food and water. Far from being an isolated incident, such callous and patently criminal behavior is far more common than generally acknowledged. (See Cat Defender post of August 23, 2010 entitled "Valley Oak SPCA Kills a Cat by Allowing It to Languish in the Heat in an Unattended Trap for Five Days at the Tulare County Courthouse.")
Living conditions at the THS are in fact so bad that Strooband's boss, Rob Godfrey, is on record as stating that the facility is not suitable for habitation. "Here is Hope and she is eight weeks old. She was found abandoned by the side of the road and she had a better chance of survival at the side of the road than she would have had at the Toronto Humane Society," he proclaimed to the Toronto Sun on August 17, 2010. (See "'Too Much Evidence' to Drop Charges: OSPCA.") "...Ontario is your home if you are an abuser of animals." (See photo of him and Hope at the bottom of the page.)
Despite that damning indictment, the government ultimately chose to ignore the OSPCA's report and dropped all charges against the THS. (See The Standard of St. Catharines, August 16, 2010, "St. Catharines' Investigator Stands Behind Toronto Probe" and The Globe and Mail of Toronto, August 17, 2010, "Toronto Humane Society Aims to Win Back Public Support.")
Although there is not any evidence that either wildlife biologists or ornithologists were behind the baiting of the coyotes, that sans doute is a tactic that would be right up their alleys. For some years now, wildlife biologists in the United States have been systematically eradicating up to eighty-thousand coyotes annually at the request of ranchers, farmers, and other economic interests while simultaneously championing their right not only to resettle in urban and suburban areas but, more importantly, to prey upon cats and small dogs with impunity.
"If all cat owners committed to keeping cats inside, then only feral cats would be available to coyotes," Shannon E. Grubbs of the University of Arizona and Paul R. Krausman of the University of Montana wrote in the ultra-ailurophobic Wildlife Society's scurrilous rag, Journal of Wildlife Management, in June of 2009. (See "Observations of Coyote-Cat Interactions" in volume 73, number 5, page 684.) "Recognizing the negative impact that feral cats have on wildlife and their potential to spread disease, coyote predation on feral cats could have benefits for wildlife."
As a consequence, wildlife biologists are winning all the way around and, ironically, their feline eradication campaigns are being unwittingly financed by cat and dog owners through the taxes that they pay. Of course, once a coyote attacks either a child or an adult, as occurred in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue in April of 2006, the wildlife biologists immediately double-cross their designated assassins and have them liquidated as well.
Their stratagem has been so successful that coyotes are now found from Alaska to Costa Rica and in every state except Hawaii. Chicago has more than two-thousand of them and, in addition to San Francisco, they also are found in Boston, Detroit and Washington as well as in innumerable smaller cities. (See Cat Defender post of October 2, 2006 entitled "Coyotes, Cheered on by Wildlife Officials, Join Raccoons in Killing Cats and Dogs in Washington State," KXLY-TV of Spokane, May 4, 2010, "Coyotes Going after Pets in Coeur d'Alene Neighborhood," and West Seattle Herald, December 14, 2010, "Determined High Point Coyote May Be after Your Cat.")
Even the thoroughly reprehensible United States Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) sellout of gray wolves to hunters and ranchers is an integral part of the biologists' grand scheme to eradicate cats because it removes one of the coyotes' few natural predators from the environment. (See Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2011, "Gray Wolves, Once Near Extinction, Lose Protection.")
Ornithologists, likewise, make no attempt whatsoever to conceal their elation every time that a coyote kills a cat. For example, the New Jersey chapter of the National Audubon Society breaks out the champagne every time that a coyote eats a cat on Higbee Beach in Cape May.
A few years back, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County posted on its web site an article entitled "Coyotes: A Songbird's Best Friend?" Featured prominently in it were photographs of two missing cats along with a glowing endorsement of the cats indoors agenda advocated by the American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society. Staff at the museum could not refrain from gleefully pointing out that the locales with the most coyotes have the fewest cats.
The point of this rather long-winded digression is to demonstrate that increased coyote predation of cats is no more of a natural occurrence than is fisher predation of them. (See Cat Defender post of July 19, 2007 entitled "Up to Their Old Tricks, Wildlife Officials Reintroduce Fishers to the Northeast to Prey Upon Cats and to Provide Income for Fur Traffickers.")
Au contraire, it is a fiendish back-door plot hatched by wildlife biologists and ornithologists in order to exterminate cats. Whenever their overt machinations are thwarted by widespread public opposition, they still have coyotes, fishers, and other feline predators that they can manipulate into doing their dirty work for them.
It is, to be sure, a devilishly clever enterprise but it can be checkmated. First of all, public funding can be taken away from the USFWS and those professors who stooge for it and other governmental agencies dedicated to demonizing, abusing, and killing cats. (See Cat Defender posts of June 23, 2011 and July 18, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Wallowing in Welfare Dollars, Lies, and Prejudice, the Bloodthirsty United States Fish and Wildlife Service Is Again Killing Cats in the Florida Keys" and "Evil Professors Have Transformed College Campuses into Hotbeds of Hatred Where Cats Are Routinely Vilified, Horribly Abused, and Systematically Killed.")
Secondly, both the owners of domestic cats and those who attend to managed colonies must be willing to go the extra mile in order to thwart the machinations of coyotes, wildlife biologists, ornithologists, and other ailurophobes. Sometimes that may even entail placing their own lives in grave danger.
That was the predicament that Jennifer Foster of Thousand Oaks, California, found herself in on November 15, 2007 when a coyote snatched a ten-year-old cat named Cosmo. Regardless of the risks involved, she did not hesitate to intervene and thus was able to save Cosmo's life. (See Cat Defender post of December 4, 2007 entitled "Grieving Widow Risks Her Life in Order to Save Cosmo from the Jaws of a Hungry Coyote in Thousand Oaks.")
Regardless of who was behind the baiting of the coyotes, the demise of the Bluffers Park colony can only be chalked up as a stunning victory for those individuals and groups who hate cats. "It would be a sorry end for a group of cats that have lived peacefully in the park for many years and bothered nobody, except for a few feline haters," Lakey eulogized them in the February 8th edition of the Toronto Star cited supra.
When homes are found for all of its members and a colony dies a natural death it is a time for celebration but when one is prematurely destroyed, especially under the circumstances that transpired in Scarborough, it serves as a wake-up call for all individuals who care about the welfare of the species. For all too long cat advocates either have turned the other cheek or foolishly ignored the clamoring and criminal acts of cat-haters and that needs to stop.
As for the situation in Bluffers Park, it does not appear to be salvageable. To their credit, Brydges and the other caretakers have not deserted Half Mask and hopefully they ultimately will be able to find some way of saving her life. She is, after all, far too adorable, courageous, and too much of a survivor for her supporters to ever allow her enemies to get the best of her.
In a way, her indomitable will to live and refusal to be cowered is the best response that can be delivered to all the cat-haters in Scarborough and elsewhere.
Photos: Scarborough Bluffs Feral Cats on Facebook (Half Mask), Toronto Star (Lakey), Jack Lakey of the Toronto Star (cats in the snow), Carlos Osorio of the Toronto Star (Brydges feeding the cats), Chris Young of the Canadian Press (mummified cat), and Dave Thomas of the Toronto Sun (Hope and Godfrey).