Word About Town

How Cat Lovers Can Help Save the Birds

Swaner Preserve steps up its game to find a humane way to live with Kimball Junction’s community cats colony.

By Steve Phillips June 13, 2017 Published in the Summer/Fall 2017 issue of Park City Magazine

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Image: Shutterstock

If you’ve ridden your bike along the west side of the Swaner Preserve lately, particularly near the Fox Point condos, you may have seen them skittering away into the tall grass: one or more cats from Kimball Junction’s feral colony. Unlike house cats, these felines are unsocialized and typically keep their distance from people. But don’t be mistaken—feral cats are not wildlife. Rarely do they survive fully on hunting but rather depend on human-based food sources. And this colony is wreaking havoc on the Swaner Preserve’s migratory neotropical and summer resident birds—including sandhill crane chicks, red-winged blackbirds, and yellow warblers. “The problem started when people allowed their cats to roam freely,” says Swaner EcoCenter Conservation Coordinator Brittany Ingalls. “And then nature took its course.”

In an effort to protect Swaner’s feathered inhabitants, this summer the EcoCenter is doubling down on its longtime trap-neuter-release (TNR) efforts, recruiting volunteers to capture these cats and foster them until their spay or neuter appointments. (Summit County Animal Control also traps and spays/neuters feral cats, many of which are then relocated throughout the county as barn cats.)

Ingalls acknowledges Swaner’s plan is not a perfect solution, admitting TNR cats will continue to prey upon birds and small mammals. “We have no intention of killing any cats, but we need to control the population,” she says. “We all care about nature and, for better or worse, this is a human-caused problem.”

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