Disturbing Decline

Sep 18, 2019

To the Editor:

At first it seemed not noticeable. Then as the summer progressed, there was a definite decline in the number of or sightings of any type of wildlife in the Manahawkin area. I don’t mean deer, or seagulls, or the soaring turkey buzzards. They seem to be a constant.

The smaller animals that roam the wooded areas of the neighborhood seemed to be missing. I am talking about the squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and the unique variety of songbirds that frequent the area. Something was happening, but what?

My first clues were subtle but noticeable to the trained eye: slightly raised mounds in sandy areas with scratch marks and food bowls at neighbors’ homes. There were, of course, feral cats in the area. Were the changes in the neighborhood due to these feral cats, or perhaps negligent, irresponsible people who kept cats but allowed them to wander outside and create problems?

Ron Jurek, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game, has kept a close eye on the impact feral and free-roaming domestic cats have on native species, like the California least tern, a federal endangered bird that nests along the coast.

“Cats do kill wildlife to a significant degree, which is not a popular notion with a lot of people,” he said.

In urban areas, he said, there are hundreds of cats per square mile, more cats than nature can support.

Exact numbers are unknown, but some experts estimate that each year domestic and feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks.

These facts are hitting home to a lot of residents in the area with the decline of our local native species of wildlife. But what can be done?

I recently saw a black and white cat sitting on my porch. As I approached, it ran off into the bushes and into the woods. I will contact the local animal control officers and report this incident, but I can’t help wondering how many other people are experiencing the same things in their area and have not reported it.

If left unchecked, I feel we may lose a lot more than local wildlife; we will lose a future for our children’s children. The only songbirds will be found in pictures in books.

Scott Molnar



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