Orioles, anyone? Me! I’m an oriole fan. Not the baseball team, the birds!

Who remembers Baton Rouge fairly covered up in Orchard Orioles? Brick red and black males, females and young in banana yellow. At our old place on Moss Side Lane, as many as 12 of them once swarmed over a blooming bottle brush. Raised an oriole family in our backyard several years in a row. That was the ’80s.

And Baltimore Orioles … well … a late friend said they used to nest along Bayou DuPlantier back in the day. Gone by 1980 when we arrived. For shame … shockingly beautiful bird, flashing hunters’ orange like a neon sign in the treetops.

Orioles aren’t the only formerly common native neotropical songbird we now rarely encounter right here in River City. Prothonotary warblers (“Cajun canary”) and wood thrushes once delighted us for months on end. Steep population declines, several reasons. Most likely culprit: house cats.

Yep, furtive ferals and beloved feline family members both raid bird nests and kill newly fledged baby birds while they hop around on the ground in their vulnerable first few hours out of the nest.

House cats are an alien predator that thousands if not millions of years of North American bird DNA didn’t account for. See, house cats are not native to Louisiana or the United States or the Western Hemisphere. House cats originated in Africa. The scant few hundred years they’ve been here is nowhere near enough time for native North American birds to have evolved effective evasive strategies. But don’t believe me. Believe our nation’s top research biologists. Google it up.

So, knowing this, I am appalled that our city is contemplating legalizing “TNRs” (trap, neuter, release of house cats into the outdoor environment, to run loose). In our heart of hearts, we know this is wrong. Discovery Channel. The newspaper. Biology class. The Golden Rule! We know better.

There are laws to protect wildlife, the environment, pets, property, human health … none of which we’ve been following very well at all. Good information on how to keep pet cats indoors. Know people who do it, and they don’t live in filth, either.

Perhaps there are many responsible solutions to the abysmally high rate of unclaimed house cat euthanasia at our animal control facility, but this I do know: TNR is NOT one of them. TNR equals fancy name for animal dumping. Whether it’s discarded deer dogs at the dumpster, Asian carp in bayous, feral hogs in the woods or pet pythons in the Everglades, dumping invasive and destructive exotic species into the environment is tragically common, utterly irresponsible, hugely destructive and decidedly illegal.

And there are other, newly emerging reasons to not continue looking the other way as illegal TNRs and free-roaming pet cats proliferate. Google “toxoplasmosis” and “house cats.”

Tell your Metro Council representatives that you are all for the responsible and legal management of homeless house cats, but turning them loose on Baton Rouge is not one of them.

Miriam Davey

  • aturalist

Baton Rouge