Letter to the Editor: Keeping the balance

For the last two days, CBC news programs have carried the story about how many birds and small animals cats have been killing in the USA.

Dear Editor,

For the last two days, CBC news programs have carried the story about how many birds and small animals cats have been killing in the USA. If I got it straight, there are 30 million cats killing 2.4 billion birds and 1 billion small animals every year in the United States.

I have forgotten how many million birds were reported a few years ago as being swept up off big city streets every morning after being killed by flying into lighted skyscraper windows at night.

Several years ago the British involved cat owners in a study to count the number of small animals their cats killed and the total was amazing.

My wife and I live in a rural area amongst many 10-acre lots. We have two neutered tomcats and one spayed female cat that are free to come and go so long as someone opens the door for them. (It has been said that dogs have owners, cats have staff). They often come in and head straight for the litter box. That being said, I learned 45 years ago that if you stretch coloured plastic ribbon six inches above a freshly seeded row of vegetables you don’t get 12-inch wide circles of vegetables at intervals along the row.  We also learned that if our bird feeder is on something solid, like a building or a sturdy pole, and if there is a shelf to catch the seeds the birds scatter, then the birds don’t congregate on the ground where they can get caught, and bears are less likely to picnic on the seeds.  The hummingbird feeder is suspended beyond where the cats can reach and there are rests attached to the feeder that the birds seldom use.

A number of centuries ago a pope, whose name I don’t remember declared that cats were evil. Since popes are infallible on religious matters it obviously was not a religious matter. However, the declaration led to so much cruelty and killing of millions of cats that the rat population exploded and that led to the Black Death killing millions of Europeans.

Only one of our neutered toms is a dedicated hunter.  When there is no snow he kills and eats from one to four meadow voles a day.  There has been no decrease in the trails through the lawns that appear as the snow recedes. In the two summers we have been here, they have killed two birds.

On the other hand, in the spring, four or five times a day for a few weeks we get to watch crows flying past our sundeck on their way back to their nests from where the songbirds nest usually carrying a blue egg or later a half-feathered baby bird. We have more crows than any other bird.

Mice, voles, rats and other small creatures reproduce at amazing rates and become food for predators such as coyotes, wolves, weasels, lynx, foxes, owls, raptors, etc. It is not how many are killed and eaten that is the significant number; it is how many remain and how many are born to maintain the balance that is important.

If we stop predators from killing and eating the small prolific creatures, they will multiply and become a nuisance and then we will poison them.  Then the poison gets into the system and we know what bad news that can be.

We need to be very careful how we interfere with a natural balance between predator and prey, especially in areas where human habitat has replaced wild predator habitat but the prey remains. Cats replace the original predators.

Peter Ross

Creston, B.C.