Two million cats to be shot and poisoned

Feral cat AustraliaI 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?

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.