I was researching the feral cat issue in Maine when a story appeared in the Washington Post announcing that the Australian government plans to kill up to 2 million feral cats by 2020, in a last desperate attempt to save dozens of native species that face extinction because these cats are killing them.
Throughout Australia, feral cats will be baited, shot, and poisoned in a program funded by the government which claims the killings will be carried out in as “humane and effective” a manner as possible. Since being introduced by Australia’s first white settlers, feral cats have grown in both number and size.
Perhaps this will be a wakeup call for Maine. Earlier this month, I read a news story on a central Maine animal shelter that noted the shelter caught feral cats, neutered them, and then “returned them to the wild.” The report said the program “has been successful.” Indeed. I wonder by whose standard that success is managed? Certainly not by our song birds!
I took my concerns to the Wildlife Division of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and learned, much to my dismay, that it is perfectly legal to let your cat go wild, with little regard for the birds and other native wildlife that those cats will kill.
It turns out this is a pretty complicated issue, with lots of people feeding “barn cats” that essentially spend all their time outdoors, rampaging through the fields and forests. I have seen some of these cats deep in the woods of Mount Vernon and I can tell you they are killing machines.
So I am wondering, will Maine learn anything from the disastrous impact of feral cats in Australia?