Dane County: What is the best way to deal with the feral cat problem in Wisconsin? That's a question being asked of animal lovers, wildlife ecologists, and now hunters.
The Conservation Congress is considering a proposal to hunt wild cats.
A group called Friends of Ferals is working with the Dane County Humane Society to take care of them until they have a new home. "Last year we got six hundred out of the wild brought them in here, spay/neutered them and released them back into the wild," says The Humane Society's Tracy Earll.
The captured cats are just the tip of the feral iceberg. UW Wildlife Ecology Professor Stanley Temple says his 1995 study conservatively estimates there are 1.4 million feral cats in Wisconsin. And those cats kill and eat a lot of other animals.
"So 1.4 million cats times 28 kills a year and 20% of those kills being birds adds up to at least, and I'll emphasize at least 7.8 million birds that are killed by free ranging cats a year. That's an alarming number," says Temple.
Those numbers are why this April the Conservation Congress will be voting on a proposal to identify feral cats as an unprotected species in Wisconsin–basically meaning they could be hunted.
"Shooting them is not the way to solve the problem," says Earll. Not surprisingly, The Humane Society feels there is a more humane way to deal with the feral cat problem.
Their feral cats have already been spayed or neutered. And if they can't be domesticated enough to be adopted out they'll likely live out the rest of their lives on a farm.
But Professor Temple says this only solves part of the problem. Spaying and neutering will keep the population from growing but the released cats still kill. Temple says even cats that are fed at a barn will kill out of instinct.
Temple doesn't advocate hunting cats, so he says there's only one solution left. "Simply put a fence around so those cats don't get access to wildlife habitat."
If the Conservation Congress approves the proposal it will still need to be passed by the state legislature.