Audubon Christmas Bird Count Adds Cats in Wisconsin

Counting of feral cats will help put solid numbers where only estimates exist now.

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For about a century, members of the National Audubon Society have counted birds in the wild during the Christmas holiday season. This year some of them will be counting cats as well.

The Madison, Wis. Audubon Society chapter has decided to include the counting of feral cats in Wisconsin this year. The count began Dec. 14 and ends Jan. 5.

We thought that while we have people out there, why not gather some data on this? says Karen Hale, of the Madison society. We have relatively little data on this.

Hale says the intent of the count is to provide some solid numbers where only estimates exist now. Feral cats prey on wild birds. Each year more than 50,000 volunteers through the United States count wild birds for the Audubon Society.

The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, a coalition of groups and government agencies working to study and protect bird habitat, had suggested the Madison Audubon Society count feral cats as well as birds, Hale says.

The cat-counting wasn't sanctioned by the national society. Erica Barton, media manager of the National Audubon Society in New York, says, The National Audubon Society is not involved in the counting of feral cats.

Most cities with serious feral cat problems, such as Austin, Texas, which claims 135,000 wild cats, use estimated population numbers.

For more information, please visit the National Audubon Society website.

Posted: Dec. 20, 2005, 3p.m. EST

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