strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Governor Vetoes Bill Pretending Outdoor Cats are Wildlife

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 28, 2015

Adorable but deadly (Photo: Richard Conniff)

Adorable but deadly (Photo: Richard Conniff)

Thank common sense for this week’s decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to kill this bit of misguided legislation.  It would have treated cats as wildlife and wasted public money on a methodology (Trap, Neuter, Release) that does nothing to control outdoor cat populations.  It would also have worked to the detriment of genuine wildlife, including birds and small mammals.

Here’s the press release from the American Bird Conservancy:

(Washington, D.C., October 28, 2015) This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation that would have used public funds to support statewide Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs for feral cats. The decision came on Monday, Oct. 26, after a lengthy public debate.

Under the proposed legislation (A 2778/S 1081), up to 20 percent of the state’s Animal Population Control Program Fund, which is supported by dog license fees, could have been allocated to TNR programs and away from the fund’s original purpose: to support low-cost spay/neuter of dogs and cats for low-income owners.

A diverse coalition of stakeholders, including American Bird Conservancy, Audubon New York, New York birders, animal welfare organizations, and sportsmen’s groups, rallied to oppose the TNR legislation, submitting numerous letters, emails, and phone calls expressing serious concerns.

“By vetoing this proposed legislation, Governor Cuomo has acted with

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

CSI (and a Poison Pill) for Cats that Kill

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 14, 2015

One of Australia's 15 million feral cats at work on a native marsupial, the  phascogale

One of Australia’s 15 million feral cats at work on a native marsupial, the phascogale

Domestic cats have become notorious in recent years as one of the most destructive invasive species on the planet, now threatening dozens of bird and mammal species with extinction. (That’s on top of the 30 or so species they have already eradicated.) When conservationists are trying to restore a threatened species to its old habitats, a single murderous cat can be enough to destroy the entire project.

Now frustrated scientists in Australia are proposing to apply criminal forensics and even a poison pill to identify and eliminate problem cats—and possibly spare other cats that are innocent of the killing. In a new study in the journal Biological Conservation, they call these experimental techniques “predator profiling.”

A team of researchers led by ecologist Katherine Moseby at the University of Adelaide looked at restoration attempts for what they call “challenging species.” That generally means mammals that are big enough, toothy enough, or just plain mean enough that you might not think the average outdoor cat Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Cool Tools, Kill or Be Killed | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The Deadly Gamble When Cats Go Free

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 10, 2014

The Washington Post ran a story over the weekend about feral cats and the flawed and falsely “humane” ideology of “trap-neuter-release,” or TNR.  Here’s an excerpt:

 The American Bird Conservancy points to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s 2013 review of previously published studies that estimated free-roaming cats kill 1.3 billion to 4 billion birds a year. Unowned cats do most of the killing, the study said. (Animal welfare groups such as the Humane Society of the United States have questioned the study’s validity.)

But these groups present no comparable peer-reviewed studies. That puts them in the same category as climate change skeptics who Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Captive Breeding No Help Where Housecats Are Free to Kill

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 29, 2014

(Photo: Rob & Ann Simpson/Getty Images)
(Photo: Rob & Ann Simpson/Getty Images)

My latest, for Takepart:

In tales of the cat and the rat, society has almost always taken the side of the cat. That has largely continued to be the case in Key Largo, Fla.—with disastrous results for wildlife. The Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge there is one of Florida’s last remaining stands of hardwood hammock forest and home to two highly endangered mammal subspecies—the Key Largo wood rat and the Key Largo cotton mouse.

Right next door to the refuge is a gated community called the Ocean Reef Club, largely developed since the 1960s. Many of its wealthy residents believe they have a right not just to let their own cats roam free but also to feed and care for stray or feral cats in the area. The home owners have maintained that cats do no damage and that roaming free is simply natural for cats. Camera traps have repeatedly shown the cats climbing onto the wood rats’ nests, waiting, and leaping to the attack. Even talking about the effect of house cats on native wild rats has, however, become such an emotional issue that a new study in the journal Biological Conservation carefully avoids ever even mentioning the word “cat.”

Instead, University of Florida wildlife ecologist Robert McCleery and his coauthors focus on the elaborate efforts people have made to save the wood rat from extinction, in spite of the cats. Their results suggest that what had seemed to be the best hope for recovery—a captive breeding and release program—may offer no hope at all. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began taking wood rats from the wild in 2002, to establish the first Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

When Cruelty Comes Masked as Animal Welfare

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 5, 2013

Cute but killers (Photo: Richard Conniff)

Cute but killers (Photo: Richard Conniff)

My latest for TakePart:

A few weeks ago I wrote an article, The Case for Culling Stray Dogs, arguing that one of the most important things we can do to protect wildlife is to get homeless dogs off the streets. The feral life is, of course, bad for the dogs and cats themselves. They often end up starved and sick, with painful, festering wounds.

But it’s even worse for other species. House cats alone have caused the extinction of 33 bird, mammal, and reptile species. Stray animals are also a threat to people. Estimates of the number of feral dogs worldwide run upwards of 200 million, and the World Health Organization says 50,000 people die of rabies every year.

Despite the outcry of concern from the animal welfare community about the treatment of strays, relatively few families step up to give these animals homes. (The outcry also generally doesn’t come from the poorer neighborhoods that often have to live with the problem.) That makes euthanasia the only practical way to protect ourselves and what’s left of our wildlife.

My article was about the campaign to control the stray dogs that are overrunning Bucharest, Romania—an effort that began after a stray mauled and killed a four-year-old boy out playing with his brother. The reaction to it was predictably colorful, and I got called some ugly names. Though this emotional response hasn’t changed my mind, I did hear one criticism that’s worth exploring. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | 16 Comments »