3:30 PM EST, March 2, 2013
I am compelled to respond to George Fenwick's commentary ("The destructive invasive species purring on your lap," Feb. 26). He cites recent studies suggesting very high bird and mammal deaths due to outdoor cats. He then goes on to propose a Draconian solution that could accurately be described as a cat witch hunt. I do acknowledge the problem, particularly with feral cats (free-roaming, unowned). But Dr. Fenwick's attempt to demonize cats by use of terms like "invasive species," "invaders," "introduced predator," and "slaughter" invests his thesis with a hysteria usually reserved for al-Qaida sightings.
I was most struck by Dr. Fenwick's highly selective choice of a bad guy. He completely ignored another "invasive species," one in fact more damaging to birds, mammals, and the environment in general than any million cats could aspire to — us. It was the growing number of European "invaders" who destroyed the Eastern forest habitat of the passenger pigeon, then shot-gunned them into extinction on an industrial scale. Many of these "invaders" cut down the old-growth forests of the Southeast U.S. causing the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Many other bird species, although still with us, are declining in number due to habitat destruction and other insults perpetrated by the "invaders."
I do not pretend to lecture Dr. Fenwick on ornithology. But I believe his presentation sorely needed the above perspective. We are all responsible, not just feral cats. I fear that someone with little or no knowledge of the issue would, after reading Dr. Fenwick's article, take away a very distorted and biased message.
I am diminished by the loss of one bird to a cat, let alone the numbers that are currently being thrown around and attributed to recent research. Some of Dr. Fenwick's ideas deserve evaluation, like rounding up, neutering, and adopting out feral cats (I have no idea where the funding would come from to herd 30 million cats). But suggesting that owned cats be entirely restricted to indoor environments tells me that Dr. Fenwick does not mind playing God and degrading the life of one animal species in an attempt to favor another. In my view, that is unacceptable and detracts from his credibility on this matter.
Let us recognize the negative contributions of all invasive species, including ourselves, in our environment and work objectively toward a solution to the problem.
David Mayhew, Cockeysville
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