If you read recently about the Smithsonian study that stated free roaming cats kill up to 24 billion birds and small mammals annually, you probably had questions. Some of those questions may have been:
- Where can I buy whatever the Smithsonian researchers are smoking?
- Are there 24 billion bird and mammal skeletons weighed down with wee cement shoes at the bottoms of every river in the United States?
Thankfully, Peter Wolf at Vox Felina has answers to all these questions and more (well, not the second one actually). His post entitled Garbage In, Garbage Out looks at the research in detail and brings to light various flaws. Serious flaws. For example, he notes that the studies referenced in the paper are, in various cases, outdated, imprecise, misrepresented and counted more than once. Using these studies to extrapolate such things as the number of cats with access to prey and the number of birds and small mammals killed by these cats results in even greater imprecision. Thus the title of Vox Felina’s post. And then there is the issue of agenda, specifically to undermine TNR, and the authors’ apparent bias:
[Peter] Marra (a vocal critic of TNR) served as Nico Dauphiné’s advisor at the Smithsonian until October 2011, when she resigned after being found guilty of attempted animal cruelty. And [Tom] Will, also an outspoken critic of TNR, helped Dauphiné land her post-doc fellowship there with a letter of recommendation.* (Her position was funded by USFWS, just as [Scott] Loss’ is today.)
While I am grateful there are smart minds like Peter Wolf willing to put in the work to debunk this study, I think many people will simply apply the common sense test to the outrageous claims made in the paper. Which is to say, a quick glance at the sky, the trees and the ground reveal that indeed, bird and small mammal populations are thriving. And cats are not the wildlife mafia.
As one commenter put it on Gawker (Warning: bad language alert):
right. it’s not fucking encroachment by archer-daniels midland, or death by monsanto poisoned seeds or bayer or ortho pesticides and herbicides, oh no, it couldn’t be those things. it couldn’t fucking be from air, water and soil pollution, fuck no; everyone knows those things are *good* for billions of birds.
it’s frisky the cat. only cats. cats are to blame.
+1 for common sense.