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Recent cat study yields unexpected results

Cats were the subject of a recent study that indicated that millions and maybe billions of birds and other animals are killed each year by such felines

Last month, a study published in "Nature Communications" made national headlines.

Peter Marra and Scott Loss of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Tom Will, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, conducted the three-year study. The report was funded by the Fish and Wildlife Service and designed to estimate the number of birds killed by predators, chemicals and collisions with wind generators and windows in the U.S.

This publication determined that feral cats and indoor cat pets allowed to roam outdoors kill from 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds each year. They also take out 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals including mice, shrews, rabbits and voles. These estimates are several times higher than previously believed.

Our domestic cats came over to North America with the European settlers several hundred years ago. Their ancestry can be traced back to the European and African wild cat, Felis silvestris. Our cats are now considered a separate species, Felis catus. Cats can trace their domestication back to the Caffre wildcat from the Nile River Valley only 4,500-5,000 years ago. Over the course of human history, man has domesticated fewer than 10 pet animal species.

Cats are true carnivores and have high protein and fat requirements in their diets. They have shortened digestive tracts and need minerals and vitamins supplied by eating the entire prey (or proper cat food) while dogs aren't true carnivores and will eat whatever humans eat and like it. When cats are sick or stressed, wasting occurs due to body protein utilization over dietary utilization. I have seen this happen numerous times in old aged cats. They have a huge protein hunger but still lose body muscle mass through catabolism.

Cats have superior water conservation over dogs and void more concentrated urine. Cats have retractable claws, can grasp things with their paws, have a nictitating membranes and the ability for pupil dilatation. Cats can also purr which is a sound emitted by vocal folds. Purring can mean pleasure or displeasure depending on the mood of the cat. Some cats have a euphoric response to catnip but only about half of the domesticated cat population exhibits this response.

Cats can have two litters per year and feral cats live on the average two years while house cats can exceed 20 years of life. Cats learn socialization by the second week of life in human households. Male cats seem to be more personable than female cats when neutered and spayed cats are calmer than their fully equipped counterparts.

Cats like hiding places, have a fascination with movement that imitates rodent motor activity and will play with their food or present captured animals to their keepers. They also have a kneading reflex upon relaxation that mimics the motion a kitten has on its mother to stimulate milk expression upon feeding. Wild type cats make very poor pets.

One final message to cat keepers - always try to keep your cat in the house at all times. It is estimated that there are over 100,000,000 cats in the United States. Nationwide, approximately 30 percent of households have cats. Spay or neuter cats. Keep them well fed, de-claw them and use bells on their collars. Also protect bird feeding and nesting areas from cats. World-wide, cats have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause except habitat destruction.

Trout Task Force

The current trout fishing regulation category system was first implemented in 1990 after an intense effort to get a viable system in place. Over the years it has been tweaked a few times to arrive at its present point.

The early catch and release trout season has also been modified a bit. It too was hammered out after many meetings with many compromises being made.

Over the last several months, a group of DNR fisheries biologists, staffers and statisticians have been hard at work gathering information through surveys and meetings to arrive at information that will allow them to suggest meaningful changes to the way trout are caught in Wisconsin. Random surveys have been sent out to 1000 active trout fishers, trout fishers who have left the sport and online requests for positions on a variety of trout related issues. Many open public meetings have been held across the state to get face to face input on important trout fishing ideas.

The final step is to hold meetings where representatives from all trout fishing interests meet and get their thoughts put down on paper.

The first meeting of this group was held in mid-February. Trout anglers, trout fishing organizational leaders, trout fishing guides, sportshop owners, tourist groups and even bed and breakfast owners that cater to trout fishers met to have their thoughts heard. Issues addressed were the regular trout season, the early/extended season, bag limits, size limits, bait restrictions, uniform regulations, cosmetic changes, inland lake regulations and Great Lake tributary regulations.

A second meeting is scheduled for March 9. Once all this gathered information is formalized, recommendations will be made and a last set of open public meetings will be held. From here, these recommendations will go on to the Natural Resource Board.

Speaker Series

On Saturday, March 16, the National Park Service River Way Speaker Series will host Dr. Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology. Dr. Frelich will talk on "Climate Change and Forests."

The presentation is free and open to the public. The event takes place at the St Croix River Visitors Center, 401 North Hamilton St., St. Croix Falls, starting at 10 a.m.