Deliberately administering any type of cruel and violent punishment to an animal is a serious criminal act. There is not, nor will there ever be, a law that sanctions such behavior.
Most societies and cultures that butcher animals for food, adhere to a merciful means of terminating their lives. In accordance with the ‘United States Humane Slaughter Act’: “No method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering, shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States, unless it is humane”. This compassionate law applies to a food source, while many believe the actions being taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, directed at creatures who have become our pets and a part of our families, to be callous and heartless.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through its operation at the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Key Largo, has initiated an aggressive policy that has triggered an ardent cadre of cat hunters, who are truculently stalking, baiting and trapping domestic cats (felis silvestris catus).
According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife news release (9/16/11), this agency has: “No National Policy” on the trapping of cats. During a formal meeting the FWS approved a policy: “to protect native wildlife from predation, disease and other impacts presented by feral and free-ranging cats”. This policy does not call for the FWS to kill cats, nor does it outlaw the practice of Trap-Neuter-Release programs.
During this commission meeting, FWS staff were directed to ‘cooperatively interact’ with all ‘affected parties’, when initiating cat trapping policies. Any decisions reached between FWS and the ‘affected parties’, must collaboratively reflect the ‘humane handling and treatment’ of these animals.
It appears that these directives and policies are not being adhered to by the FWS employees stationed at the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The pseudo-science used to justify some of their actions are spotty and shallow. Cherry-picking facts proffered by bureaucrats depended upon the government for their jobs, is not science.
The FWS has formed compromising alliances with organizations that benefit from their agreement with this powerful government agency. This symbiotic relationship has distorted and twisted the facts to suit the needs of FWS. In addition, activists and extremists with a self-fulfilling ideology, have taken a series of positions that upon further examination expose an unwillingness to work towards a resolution, with those providing a viable alternative.
Opting to traumatize and kill one animal, so that another animal might live, is not a solution.
Unfortunately, it appears that agencies who stand a chance of improving their bottom lines and standing as vendors with the government, have been willing to provide a biased rendition of support for the FWS trapping policies.
Of serious concern is the fact that I uncovered a hunter, while he aggressively pursued cats residing on the private property of their owner. Upon questioning this cat hunter, he informed me that his orders were to place his traps near the homes of citizens with cats on the boundary line of the ‘wildlife refuge’.
Of note, this federally funded hunter working for the FWS was trapping on state property, directly adjacent to the private property of a cat owner. The traps were heavily baited to draw and snare these sentient creatures from the homes where they lived. Upon capture they are delivered to an animal shelter where they may be killed.
The grouping of these cages, as they were laid down by the hunter, were designed to lure and snatch these family pets from their owner’s property. When I again confronted the trapper about the specific placement of the cages on the property line of another cat owner, he told me that he was doing what his boss had told him to do. I asked him if he was paid by the number of cats that he baited and snared?
When I pointed out the heaps of trash teeming throughout this wooded area, and informed him that this was a threat to the survival of the Key Largo woodrat (neotoma floridana smalli), he ignored me and continued to load his traps.
Doing further research, I was informed by a reputable leader from the Ocean Reef Community in North Key Largo, that a hole had been cut through the fence that encloses their property. Cat food had been placed on the Ocean Reef side of the damaged fence at specific intervals, establishing a trail from their side of the fence to cat trapping cages on the other side. When an FWS official was confronted by a representative from this community about the incident, the Ocean Reef advocate was told that he had cut the hole in the fence.
The primary threat to the Key Largo woodrat is habitat loss and fragmentation caused by increasing urbanization. Development, land clearing and construction practices have decimated the tropical hardwood hammocks that support life for the woodrat. Human intervention that could actually acquire land that would stop or slow their habitat destruction down, so that this endangered species might actually stand a fighting chance of survival, has been absent.
Human encroachment, natural catastrophes, the dumping of trash and contaminants, along with competition from black rats and Norway rats, all threaten the survival of this species.
Potential predators of the woodrat that have been identified. Many of them thrive within the ‘wildlife refuge’. They include raccoons, Virginia opossums, nine-banded armadillos, common boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, Gambian pouch rats, green iguanas, the Nile Monitor, black spiny-tailed iguana and imported red fire ants.
The red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus), bobcats (Lynx rufus), corn snakes (Elaphe guttata), diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus), eastern indigo snakes (Drymarchon corais couperi), Florida black racers (Coluber constrictor priapus), Keys rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta deckerti), barn owls (Tyto alba) and cats (felis catus) have been known to live and flourish within the boundaries of this refuge. All of these creatures threaten the survival of the woodrat.
However, three photographs submitted with this article show a rat licking and grooming several cats, while the recipients of this attention purr with approval. Cat loathers, along with those who have drank the government’s Kool-aide, have been indoctrinated with the propaganda being spewed by the government agencies charged with the eradication of these creatures. The accompanying pictures do not portray a ravenous predator that will compulsively pounce upon and kill another creature smaller than itself.
I’ve ridden my bicycle between 2 and 4 hours every day, over the last 15 years throughout the state property that borders the Crocodile Lake Refuge. Never, at any time, have I witnessed a cat on any of the government’s property. However, I regularly see a vast variety of snakes and other predators that pose a threat to the woodrat.
The high power night scopes and cameras purchased by the FWC to allegedly take a picture of a cat at nighttime, which was published in many newspapers, identifies a calm and poised animal that is not attacking another creature, tearing up the environment or clawing away at anything.
What a waste of time, taxpayer money and resources; so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can attempt to build a case, whereby newly proposed criminal action can be taken against law-abiding citizens, for the alleged wrong-doing of their pet cats. Simultaneously, the policies of this agency are capable of directing these unsuspecting felines towards a mass execution.
It’s troublesome for me to read a FWS official statement: “If a cat is on one inch of conservation land, it is subject to capture”. Really… If one front paw crosses some vague and ambiguous line drawn on the ground in a hammock, you’re going to pounce on my pet with all the weight and force of the United States government??? And you’re going to use my money to fund this insanity???
As an American, I never thought there would be a day when our government would be energetically directing this fascist type of action against its own people.
As compared to all of the other risks facing the survival of the woodrat, particularly the conduct of human beings, the innumerable family pets that the government is going after, rank near the bottom. To many, it appears that this police action targeting families and their pets, is a contrived ploy to justify the salaries, employment and budgets of a bloated bureaucracy. In addition, the high-speed road CR 905 running straight through the reserve has fragmented the habitat causing many road mortalities. The many man-made stressors faced by the woodrat are causing these creatures to become aggressive towards one another.
The National Audubon Society has identified areas of proposed land acquisition that would be a realistic step towards protecting the woodrat. Although the FWS concurs with their findings, apparently they prefer the easier softer way, as they appear comfortable bullying and besieging citizens, while coming after their animals.
Given the flexibility and sensitivity demonstrated in the policies set forth by the FWS during their previous meeting, as it addresses this matter, I’m surprised by the stern threats and hard line taken by the Crocodile Lake Wild Refuge.
Criminally charging cat owners for the conduct of their pets, particularly when the only reason these animals may have left the grounds of their owner, was caused by enticing and luring these creatures onto government grounds through the use of heavily baited traps, is immoral and scandalous.
Fixating upon a preconceived remedy that excludes the very parties that the FWS has been directed to consult with, may be feeding some prejudices, rather than effectively moving towards a solution. It is the duty of leaders within these bureaucracies to follow the guidelines set forth by the organization that employs them. As a United States Marine I expected myself and my Marines to conduct themselves with a certain level of brilliance and compassion, in accordance with our orders, while we protected and served the people who paid our salaries. Court-martial awaited those who inappropriately used deadly force or destructively interpreted the context of a mission.
Traumatizing and killing creatures who have been revered through the ages as Gods and Goddesses, is distressing. During my years teaching children and young adults, who were having a difficult time learning how to read, I brought cats into my classroom. I explained to my students that these cats enjoyed having someone read to them. After some preparation, these students were bound and determined to make their new friends happy. In one year, I had one young girl improve her reading level by 5 grade levels. Every student exposed to this experience made significant gains in their sight word vocabulary and reading comprehension.
Nursing homes have enhanced the quality of their patient’s lives, while giving them a sought after dignity, simply by allowing them to feel the vibratory flow of energy passing through these creatures.
The primary cause for the demise of the woodrat, rests squarely at the hands of human beings, not domestic cats.
Unfortunately, FWS construction vehicles, projects and venders have had the capacity to kill and infringe upon the survival of the woodrat, far more than the cats, whom I’ve never seen in or near any part of the refuge.
A reasonable and measured approach addressing the concerns of the FWS can be arrived at. However, many citizens were offended by what they interpreted as public threats in our local newspapers by the authors of this cat trapping agenda. This policy authorizes armed police officers, capable of arrest and the use of deadly force, to compel compliance to these policies.
To most of the people that I have spoken with, this approach appears insolent and intimidating. It looks like the government is willing to do whatever it wants, regardless of the harm that it may cause ‘the people’. It has thwarted a judicious and circumspect resolution to this controversy.
If we are to retain any decency and cohesiveness as a community, I urgently request the Crocodile Wild Life Refuge to cease and desist from the furtherance of those agenda items that are hurting people. As I suggested to the Crocodiles Lake Manager, the needs of the FWS can be arrived at in a far more effective and humane manner if he will stand-down, temporarily, and allow the needs of those people being negatively impacted to be addressed. I have spoken with some of the aggrieved parties and I can assure the ‘refuge manager’ that a cooperative agreement can be reached, if he will allow some dialogue and a process to unfold.
There is a body of work in our country, known as the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence; whose principles and laws have demonstrated a particular abhorrence to the type of force and control reflected by the government, in the disputed FWS policies.
It’s the hope of many, that the FWS station at Crocodile Lake will extend a helping hand to their community partners and neighbors surrounding the refuge. Standing-down from an operation that many believe is reckless and cruel, will provide an environment where these sensitive topics can be reasonably discussed. I pledge my allegiance to facilitate a successful remedy.
While not diminishing the goals and objectives of the FWS, a lot of tax dollars are being spent waging a war, which targets the lives of cat owners with police action, while exposing their beloved pets to injury and death.
In congruence with the unlimited resources of the government and the extraordinary individuals employed within the FWS, we can most assuredly arrive at a resolution through the means once described as “The American Way”.
Consensus, compromise and cooperation with our neighbors is necessary; if the mission of the FWS is to be legitimized and accomplished.
Data compilation, night scope camera pictures, tracking information and position papers cannot be utilized to justify conduct, that appears to many to be nefarious.
A divergence of perspectives and experiences within the scientific community, view the present FWS policy with great alarm. Miami-Dade County has enacted an extremely effective alternative known as Trap-Neuter-Release. Their humane and compassionate treatment of abandoned cats, reflects an advanced and evolved state of mind. The Miami-Dade County model has significantly reduced the number of discarded cats in a cost-effective manner, while here in the Keys we spend on average nearly $ 4,000 to catch one stray cat.
Studies conducted by Dr. Julie Levy at the University of Florida, which followed a long-term Trap-Neuter-Release program, found that the population of felines living within a supervised cat colony declined by 66% over 10 years.
Please remember that these cat colonies are provided with food, given clean water and showed affection each day by their caregivers. In addition, all of the cats in these colonies are spayed and neutered, while being attended to medically. In all of the cases that I’m familiar with, the medical expenses incurred for the care of these animals has been paid for privately, at no cost to the taxpayer.
Unfortunately, the FWS has adamantly refused to accept Dr. Levy’s data and the humane alternative that she offered.
The truth is that Trap-Neuter-and Release programs are nationally accepted as a widespread life-saving practice, supported by major animal protection organizations, which include Alley Cat Allies, ASPCA and Best Friends Animal Society, as well as over 250 nonprofit organizations dedicated to abandoned cat care across the nation.
Several scientists who have reviewed all of the existing data regarding the treatment of disserted cats, believe that the strident and inhumane policies proffered by the FWS, are the least desirable. A detailed examination of the Crocodile Lake model reveals a lack of creativity and a certain amount of subterfuge. When challenged with the harshness and ineffectiveness of their approach, while providing them with viable alternatives, they become very defensive and shut down. To many, their insensitive attitudes and witless adherence to the party line are startling.
Having recently spoken with the manager of this ‘wildlife refuge’, I was comforted by this man’s intelligence, character and charisma.
I spoke with him in a truthful and sincere manner. It’s my hope that he will not use the force and might of the United States government to trample the dissenters of his methods into submission.
An amenable solution can be reached, if the manager will extend a hand of friendship to the aggrieved parties. Creating a dialogue, whereby a mechanism can be developed that will collectively represent the objectives and concerns of all; will be arrived at, if the government so desires.