DEAR DR. FOX: In a recent column, you printed a letter from G.R.R. of Buffalo, New York, that included so-called statistics that claimed that feral cats kill 1.3 to 4 billion birds and 6.3 to 22.3 billion mammals annually in the United States.
Those numbers are bogus and from a discredited study, but they have been passed around as gospel for years. Any statistic that has a range of accuracy of 300 percent is not a useful statistic -- it is a wild guess. The author of this letter also states that cats represent far and away the major killer when compared to other human-related causes of death to birds and mammals. That is just false.
Probably the biggest killer of wildlife is the American lawn, a green desert infused with dangerous chemicals. Lawn grass is one of the biggest crops grown in America, and it is useless and dangerous territory to birds and other wildlife. Millions of birds and mammals are slaughtered by hunters for fun in the United States every year. Window strikes and vehicle collisions are a major cause of death to birds, especially during migration. Destruction of habitat for farming and development is a much bigger threat to all wildlife than predation.
I grew up next to a hay field where bobolinks nested for the last 60 years, and many years before that. Five years ago, Bristol, Connecticut, built a new school where the hay field used to be. Bobolinks survived feral cats, but even though they are a species of special concern, an elementary school that could have been built elsewhere destroyed the bobolinks nesting area.
G.R.R. cites reduced numbers of meadowlarks, vesper sparrows, field sparrows and grasshopper sparrows, all of which have been affected by the loss of farms to development, not by feral cats.
People find it easy to blame cats rather than take on hunters and developers, but birds have evolved with predators, not humans with guns and bulldozers. If any bird species goes extinct, the extinction is caused by man's greed and stupidity, not by cats. -- S.W.B., Waldorf, Maryland
DEAR S.W.B.: Thank you for your summary of the many factors pushing bird and other wildlife species and communities across the nation into extinction. I was not aware that the cat predation bird mortality study had been discredited. Regardless, the cat incursion is but one aspect of relentless worldwide human invasion and destruction, which must be stopped. Nor should we ignore the demise of the oceans, now at grave risk from oil drilling, overfishing, acidification and rare-mineral dredge-mining. Few dare mention human birth control as one preventive measure!
I live in Minnesota, where greed, as in other states, seems unquenchable. For instance, producers of GMO corn and soybeans for the livestock and poultry industries and for export have destroyed vast acreages of prairie and other wildlife habitat. They have now planted so much that they have overproduced and shrunk their own profits. As for lawns and golf courses and the chemicals used on them, I have documented their harms in past columns and regard them as culturally unexamined abominations!
THE TYPE OF MEAT EVANGER’S USED
Pet food monitor Susan Thixton reports, “It was more than inedible, the meat supplier Evanger’s Pet Food purchased from was a dead animal carcass processor. This is a company that removes dead animals from farms (including euthanized horses) and processes the meat from those dead animals for sale to pet food. This was why and how the euthanasia drug pentobarbital got in to some dog foods." (Visit truthaboutpetfood.com/the-type-of-meat-evangers-really-used/ for more information.)
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CHECK OUT TAP WATER FOR HEALTH’S SAKE
The municipal water and public health crisis of tap water contamination with lead in Flint, Michigan, was a wake-up call and underscores the 2017 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council that U.S. residents have a 1-in-4 chance that their tap water is either unsafe to drink or has not been properly monitored for contaminants. Visit nrdc.org/sites/default/files/whats-in-your-water-flint-beyond-report.pdf for more information.
I am especially concerned about cats and dogs drinking unpurified tap water and standing water outdoors, both of which can make them seriously ill and even die. For details, see my article "Pure Water for Cats and Dogs and All,” posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net.