Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cats removed from island off California without killing them

Officials from the Navy and environmental groups have completed a three-year program to relocate feral cats off San Nicolas Island.
3 year program to relocate feral cats
Los Angeles Times/Steve Chawkins, 2/26/12. "Comples effort to rid San Nicholas Island of cats declared a success"."The six-agency project cost more than $3 million and entailed 18 months of trapping on the Navy-owned island off Southern California. The cats killed cormorants, gulls and a threatened lizard."

"Reporting from San Nicolas Island, Calif.— The problem was daunting: Round up every last one of the who-knows-how-many cats living in the wild on wind-blasted San Nicolas Island, a 33-square-mile chunk of chaparral and jagged canyons off the Southern California coast. And don't get in the way of the missiles that are launched from, and sometimes aimed at, the arid, Navy-owned island. And don't hurt the cats, the seabirds they feast on, the threatened island foxes, the native deer mice or, for that matter, anything else.
An island you probably didn't know existed.

This cat, trapped on San Nicolas in 2009, now lives in Ramona, Calif.
What else you've got for me?
The solution was something a little more complicated than "Here, kitty kitty."  The effort involved six agencies, cost more than $3 million and entailed 18 months of trapping, though planning for it took much longer. Biologists brought in dogs, but soon shipped them out: Fido couldn't find Fluffy because he was too distracted by the island's hundreds of foxes. And the cats weren't falling for the scientists' "felid-attracting phonics" — digitally recorded meows that didn't work as well as they might in cartoons.

Ultimately, the job required the skills of a retired bobcat hunter as well as some 250 custom-built traps that flashed computer alerts to researchers miles away. Much of the funding came from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, a group formed in 2001 to aid the recovery of coastal areas hurt by decades of DDT dumping.   Earlier this month, biologists and Navy personnel gathered on the rain-swept island to celebrate their success. There wasn't a cat in sight."

  ...The scientists and the Navy personnel stopped short of references to St. Patrick and the snakes of Ireland but proudly noted that San Nicolas is the largest island anywhere to remove feral cats without using poison.  The bird colonies appear to be bouncing back. There's talk of eventually getting the island night lizard off the endangered list. Hanson is preparing to deal with rats on Wake Island. McHugh, who retired Friday, offered a wry wish to the crowd: "Hopefully," he said," if there's a cat left on San Nicolas, there's only one."   Read more, including  photo gallery.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

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