DAN'S PAPERS, March 14, 2008 Page 22 www.danshamptons.com
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cats. Victorian mansions with front porches and rocking chairs come with cats. There’s a Cat Stray Rescue Service in Cape May. We have nothing like that here. Cape May also has the World Series of Bird Watching. Bird watchers do come to the Hamptons. But we don’t have the World Series of Bird Watching. On May 6, 2007, however, something terrible happened in Cape May. A cat was seen eating a piping plover near its nest on the beach. All hell broke loose. The authorities traced this particular cat — having gotten a description from the witness — to a den in the dunes nearby where it was found that there were more than a dozen feral cats living and trying to get along. The offending cat, it was said, was shot. When I say that the residents of Cape May love their cats, you have no idea. Not far away, for example, in a beach parking lot were two trailers that Cape May has had there for 12 years. One of them is owned and operated by the Cape May Animal Control Service, which is a city run department. The other is run by the Animal Outreach of Cape May County, which is a volunteer organization. Both trailers were staffed to administer TNR, which is Cape Mayspeak for trapping, neutering and releasing feral cats. On May 17, 2007, three weeks later, both trailers caught fire and burned to the ground, resulting in the loss of tons of paperwork and the death of 37 cats. The City mourned. The federal government investigated.
“In an ideal world,” said Jim Cramer of the U. S. Wildlife Service, “we wouldn’t have feral cat populations. All cats would be given good homes and be kept indoors. But that’s not the reality we’re dealing with.” A local man, Bill Schemel, was interviewed by the city newspaper. “Cats are not part of the natural environment. They’re here because someone’s cat had a litter and they dumped them in the woods.” No arrests were made. The City Council met. It was noted that there were 400 feral cats in Cape May when the TNR program, which costs several million dollars a year, began in 1996. Now there are, it is believed, 100. A man got up and said that it was a wellknown fact that feral cats do not live more than four years in the wild. This was now 12 years into the program. How come there were still feral cats? The program should be stopped. The meeting ended without result, with a new meeting scheduled for October. On October 12, 2007, the Cape May City Council noted that they were required by law to create a wildlife management plan for its beaches to aggressively protect endangered ground-nesting birds. They did have such a law in effect. They then voted and did pass six amendments. They were 1) The TNR program would be continued (with new trailers). 2) Cats trapped by the plan would be micro chipped so they could be kept track of. 3) There would be the establishment of a 1,000-foot buffer zone between cat colonies and beach nesting areas of endangered birds. 4) The requirement that all
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Cape May cats be licensed would be dropped. 5) There would be a census every five years to count the Cape May cat population. 6) There would be stiff fines put into place for cat abandonment. About a week later, the official from the Federal Government, who was apparently still around investigating the fire, issued a bombshell about the cat-bird situation. He said that after conferring with his superiors, he was now authorized to say that the buffer zone distance requirement of 1,000 feet in Cape May would be insufficient. The buffer requirement would have to be 5,000 feet, or the Federal Government would consider ending the beach replenishment program for the upcoming year — they couldn’t do it for that year because the dredges had already finished their work. Why this was a bombshell is because a 5,000foot requirement would mean that all cats would have to be cleared out of Cape May. In early February, the Cape May City Council announced that it would consider ending the Trap, Neuter and Release Program. They would consider replacing it with an Impound Adoption Euthanasia (IAE) program for all cats that were not kept indoors. A woman named Leigh Ann Shmidheiser of the Animal Outreach in Cape May said, “Ending this program would be terrible. I want each cat to be treated as if they were worth living, whether it’s your house pet or a feral cat outside. Together, we can make a difference for these ferals. Let’s speak for those who don’t have a voice.” There were stories in the local media about how difficult it was to capture, neuter and release cats. It involved heavy gloves, cages and sharp knives for the “N” part. Outside of the trailers, the traps were filled with bowls of delicious Here Kitty! Here Kitty! Would the City Council choose beaches and birds or dunes and cats? The New Jersey Audubon Society strode in with their opinion. “A combination of cats indoors, proper spaying and neutering of domestic cats, and humane removal should limit the impact of cat predation on wildlife and reduce the swelling feral cat population.” The Council met at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19 at the Cape May City Hall, located at 643 Washington Street. It was a tumultuous meeting. Brenda Malinics, who said she patrols the beach each summer, said, “I have not seen any cats along those stretches of nests. To pick on just cats is a witch hunt. I am a birder, and I see both sides of this. Humans are the real problem. Teenagers play Frisbee behind the ropes where the birds are. People ride their bikes there.” Deputy Mayor Neils Favre said he received 600 emails in a single day against the plan to shut down TNR last week. “This really is a cat town,” said resident Pat Peckham. “I think they should leave the cats where they are.” In the end, they postponed their decision until mid-March. This would leave almost no time for the City to move the cats, if that’s what (continued on page 30)
Published on Mar 14, 2008
Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...