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  • 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 ‘feral cats’

Sorry, Cat Lovers, TNR Simply Does Not Work

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 10, 2017

“Cat eating a rabbit” (Photo: Eddy Van 3000)

While this site is on a bit of a hiatus, I am re-posting this 2014 piece on the feral cat fight.

by Richard Conniff

Various estimates say that anywhere from 20 to 100 million feral cats roam the United States. Together with pet cats that are allowed to wander free, they kill billions of birds, mammals, and other animals every year.

Every time I write about the need to deal with this rapidly worsening problem, certain readers argue for a method called TNR, which stands for “trap, neuter, and release,” or sometimes “trap, neuter, and return.” So let’s take a look at how it might work.

TNR is an idea with enormous appeal for many animal welfare organizations, because it means cat shelters no longer have to euthanize unwanted cats: They just neuter and immunize them, then ship them back out into the world. It’s a way to avoid the deeply dispiriting business of putting animals down, not to mention the expense of feeding and caring for the animals during the usual waiting period for a possible adoption. And it enables animal shelters to put on a happier face for donors: “We’re a shelter, not a slaughterhouse.”

TNR advocates generally cite a handful of studies as evidence that this method works. The pick of the litter is a 2003 study that supporters say shows TNR enabled the University of Central Florida to reduce the feral cat population on its Orlando campus by 66 percent. On closer examination, though, what that study showed was that

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

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

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

Readers Respond To “The Evil of Outdoor Cats”

Posted by Richard Conniff on March 31, 2014

(Illustration:  Christelle Enault )

(Illustration: Christelle Enault )

These letters appeared today in the NY Times, in response to my article “The Evil of the Outdoor Cat.”

The letter from the Humane Society executive is the most interesting.  It says that neither the Humane Society nor other groups can sell euthanasia of feral cats to the public, and therefore we should leave feral cats free to kill wildlife, as we have known them to do for almost a century.

This is a highly selective, even perverse, notion of “animal welfare,” for an outfit that describes itself as “the nation’s largest animal protection organization” dedicated to preventing “cruelty before it occurs” and seeking “a humane and sustainable world for all animals.”

Maybe they mean they are for preventing cruelty, “except when we can’t sell it to the public.”

To the Editor:

Re “The Evil of the Outdoor Cat,” by Richard Conniff (Sunday Review, March 23):

Thank you for addressing a portion of the litany of problems with allowing cats to roam outdoors. There is a new trend by “no kill” “rescue” groups, which oppose all euthanasia, to release even tame cats into the not-so-great outdoors to take their chances as part of trap-neuter-release programs. In addition to killing wildlife and running afoul of it, these cats succumb to freezing winter weather, traffic, infections and infestations, human beings with evil intentions, and other perils.

As a humane officer for many years, I’ve seen it all and can attest to the fact that cats’ predation on other animals aside, it is not kind to allow them to come to such harsh and painful ends. Trap-neuter-return is illegal in most states because it constitutes abandonment of an animal, and should be in all.

President, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals
Washington, March 24, 2014

To the Editor:

Richard Conniff sensitively explores an issue that is an impossible dilemma for cat owners. Keeping a cat indoors amounts to caging an animal that was meant to run and roam, and it can make life miserable for both cat and owner. Yet being responsible for the death of small animals, birds especially, is also unacceptable.

I do take issue with Mr. Conniff’s offhand comment that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Twitter Rant Names Me World’s Laziest Journo

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 7, 2013

Mom would be so proud.

O.K., it’s a little odd, though entertaining, for me to be attacked by a group that calls itself the Endangered Species Coalition.  Odder still, they’re attacking me for my article describing the threat to endangered species from free-roaming and feral cats and dogs.

But, gosh, it sure makes Tweeting between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. seem like fun.  Is that “leagerly” or “Ieagerly”?

  1. I do research so @RichardConniff doesn’t have to, apparently. Ieagerly await his reply on his ridiculous TNR assertion.

  2. @NYTmag your contributor @RichardConniff says trap/neuter/release is just “animal abuse by a different name”. Do you agree?

  3. .@NatGeo Your contractor @Richardconniff is representing himself as your agent with his inaccurate piece about TNR …

Posted in The Primate File | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »