Letter to the Editor

Subsidized predators

Los OsosFebruary 6, 2013 

A note to Phil Dirkx Concerning his Jan. 30 column, “It’s only natural for cats to kill.”

In the “natural world,” the interactions between predators and prey tend to be cyclic and mutually self-regulating. Increasing prey populations result in increasing predation. The resulting prey decline is followed by a decrease in predators, due to lack of food.

Cats and other domesticated carnivores are subsidized predators. If kitty does not catch a mouse or bird today, then it’s cat food tonight. The predator is free from natural controls. The playing field is tilted against the prey.

In my neighborhood, cats are rare and birds are abundant. I suspect that the presence of the great horned owl that perches in my tree and the coyotes that wander through may be a regulating influence.

I lived on my uncle’s rural chicken farm for a while. We, too, killed chickens, but we made sure enough chickens remained to carry on the business. Our predation was regulated.

Hunting and fishing laws regulate human predation to conserve the prey population for future generations. Unregulated hunting was the principle cause extinction of the once-abundant passenger pigeon by 1914.

Since shooting motorists who abandon cats is prohibited, the remaining options are to either 1.) remove the cats or 2.) be responsible for controlling their predation.

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