Heard around the West
Uh, oh. All that money we spend on feeding birds—and at $2.6 billion a year, it’s not chicken feed—might better go toward sterilizing house cats. These subsidized predators treat backyard feeders as "fast-food outlets" for feathered meals, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Birdseed appeals to hungry rats, raccoons, skunks, and even bears, and homeowners often demand that the state move or kill the uninvited eaters.
It’s not supposed to be this way, since the urge to feed birds comes out of a desire to connect to nature. But that urge can lead to bizarre situations. Farmers in the Dakotas and Minnesota, for example, grow millions of dollars’ worth of sunflowers, some of them for birdseed. But each fall, migrating red-winged blackbirds "swoop down in giant flocks on the ripening crop and cause up to $20 million in damage." In response, says the Journal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to poison some six million blackbirds over three years. But "the National Audubon Society thinks killing red-winged blackbirds to save seeds for bird-feeder birds is a dumb idea." An environmental impact statement is in the works.
Speaking of backyard visitors, a mountain lion in Jackson, Wyoming, killed a mule deer within two hundred feet of a subdivision, after which "the emboldened cat even sat on the porch" of a house, reports the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Homeowner Jade Walsh said she was looking out her window when she spotted the lion. "I had just been chased up my driveway by a moose a half hour before, so I was not in any mood to enjoy wildlife," she said.
Pets are looming ever larger in our lives. Some Colorado state legislators now back a law elevating cats and dogs to "companion" status, which would allow caregivers to sue veterinarians for up to $100,000 if medical mistakes lead to "loss of companionship." This would be the first law of its kind in the nation, reports the AP. One supporter, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he’s thrilled: "My ‘partner’ health benefits could be greatly expanded once I add my twenty horses, eighteen cats, four coons, twenty-three prairie dogs, four gerbils, two guppies, one ferret, and seven dogs."
Betsy Marsden is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org).