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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

June 1997

Readers Write

More on Cats

I purchased the December issue because of the story Cats on the prowl. I have four domestic cats that were rescued and they spend the winter inside watching birds at my feeder. I also raise and train 22 sled dogs. The cats are territorial, but they know the limits of where they can go safely near the dogs. Both are more curious than anything else.These cats are mousers, and instinct is what animals will follow, if humans let them. I don't dispute the facts in the article. I believe that we need to use good human judgment, but I think it is wrong to view domestic cats as separate from wild creatures. Cats are fellow travelers, and we should not mentally divide them as separate the way we have done with human racial groups. Earth is for all of us – wild and domestic.

Julie Verrette

During the mid-1940s people who had unwanted cats in our area would drop them off in a small valley just west of Galesville. Some of the cats went wild. My uncle had a small farm in that valley and he had trouble with these wild cats. In fact, he couldn't keep a domestic cat on his farm; those feral cats killed every one of them. My uncle knew I liked to hunt and would invite me down to reduce the number of wild cats. It was best when there was a fresh snowfall. Over the period of three or four years, I guess I eliminated 25-30 of these pests. After that, he could keep a cat around the farm. I live near Trempealeau now and domestic cats bother the birds around my little farm. I used to have a covey of quail that I fed by a brush pile. There was a cat that made a trip of about half a mile for two days in a row and after that, there were no more quail. I backtracked that cat's trail and found that it did no hunting until it reached those quail. I was very sad to see all those quail gone. At what distance from a cat's supposed home does it become fair game? I know all the cats in my area that belong to people, but there are some I don't recognize. The small wooded area of my farm is reserved for wildlife, and I'm sure cats are disturbing that area.

Howard Hare

Ed. note: Cats are never considered fair game. Local ordinances may allow removal of nuisance animals, but you need to check with the local sheriff's office and the county. Some regions will try to live trap and remove problem animals first. We sympathize with your situation, but seek a remedy with local law enforcement and the local humane society.

We thought your December piece on cats was terrible. The entire article was based on estimates – things that may be happening. It is equally likely that they may not be happening. We don't believe the estimates of up to nine cats per acre and 114 per square mile in rural areas. By our experience, this figure is grossly overestimated. We've had cats on our rural home for more than 45 years. In all that time and with all those cats, we have only seen two dead birds. They've gotten a lot of mice, moles, shrews and even three snakes, but only two birds that we've seen.I think either the authors are trying to spread their venom or this is another trick by government to add another form of tax through cat licensing. I don't think licensing will change cat behavior and I think you have been taken in by research guesstimates.

Dorothy Dodge
New Lisbon

Ed. note: We stand by the cat predation research and its results, which clearly stated birds constitute less than 30 percent of the feral rural cat's diet. As we see it, the value of licensing pets is not the money it raises but the sense of responsibility it builds in the owner. For some people, the license is a reminder that humans remain responsible for controlling the habits and whereabouts of animals they keep as pets. Along with vaccinations and the other steps we recommended, licensing provides a means of returning lost animals and providing an avenue of recourse for others who are affected by our cats' actions.

Ms. Big Bird

Christian Cold's Talon Show was a well-written and thoughtfully organized piece on Wisconsin hawks. As a retired, but still vigilant copy editor, however, I question one point: Cold's statement that accipiter females "may be as much as 30 percent larger than her mate" seems to be at odds with the cutline for the photo of him holding a pair of Cooper's hawks, in which the bird that appears much larger is identified as the male. Did the caption writer cross up Mr. Cold, is the size of the birds in the photo an illusion because one was held closer to the camera or is this pair of hawks an exception to the rule? Perhaps, judging from the position of the fly on Mr. Cold's trousers, the photo was printed as a reverse image while the caption went unchanged. I can sympathize all too well with this type of error, having seen way to many left-handed guitar players and folks with wedding rings on their right hand show up in print.

Don Lewis

And may we say blessed are those who have been there, done that. Chris Cold knows his stuff and the larger bird was, indeed, the female. Female raptors of the species we see in Wisconsin are normally up to 30 percent bigger than the males. This is an example of sexual dimorphism where nature produces two distinct forms in the same species that differ in secondary characteristics as well as primary sexual differences.

Rediscovering Mel Ellis

Thank goodness a friend loaned me your great February issue. Otherwise I would never have read The long view from Little Lakes by Mel Ellis. Now that we live in Arizona, I had nearly forgotten the many joys of winter back home. Mr. Ellis' columns brought it back in vivid detail. Thank you so much.

Jacque Mills
Sun City, Ariz.

Smart Bird

In the last few winters, we've noticed an increase in the number of house finches in our back yard. They seem to spend a lot of time with other bird species. We also have a pair of bluebirds that nest in a birdhouse nearly every year and the house finches follow the bluebird parents as they fly back and forth feeding their young. We also have tube feeders for goldfinches. Sometimes house finches will perch on the feeder and try to figure out how to get out the thistle seed. After watching a goldfinch, the house finch eventually learns to reach under the perch and retrieve the seed. They are good learners and I'd rate the house finch A+ in intelligence.

Don Wachlin

Silver Fox

Toward the end of September, we took a fall color ride in the Hayward area. The leaves were at peak, and we were busy taking pictures. We had the back roads to ourselves and saw some sandhill cranes and a huge beaver lodge. Our film was about used up when, to our amazement, a beautiful animal ran down the road near a swamp. At first we thought it was an arctic fox turning winter white, but its ears were not rounded and it had a different body shape. A few weeks later I saw a picture of this animal on an episode of Wild America. What we saw was the silver color phase of a red fox. Nature provides pleasant surprises for us if we take the time to enjoy them.

Betty Jane Effertz
Rice Lake

Paying for Conservation

One would believe from your article On the table that license fees go for funding hunting, fishing and conservation purposes. The fact is, the license fees go into the general fund where they are distributed by a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats to wherever they deem fit. Why don't you tell it like it is?

William Flood

You make the point very well that hunters, fishermen and trappers are paying for the things that they would never use – amenities like new parking lots and watchable wildlife signs. ABSURD! Outdoorsmen know what wildlife they are shooting at without the signs. Let the animal rights groups and the bird watchers pay their share. We gunmen are tired of paying the entire bill. In fact, let's have a fish and game department.

Daniel A. Ness

In "On the table," I read about all the things that must be done and the limited funds available. I was raised in Wisconsin, but spent my professional years out of state. Since retirement, I have returned to Wisconsin for summers and this year will purchase my non-resident fishing license, as usual. Wisconsin, I believe, issues a lifetime license to seniors. Why not mount an appeal asking seniors who have had a free ride for five, 10 or more years to contribute a hundred dollars or more.

Joe Fulton
Fayetteville, Ark.

Ed. note: Discussions about fees still garner a wide range of opinions and ideas. License buyers remain our strongest supporters, but other taxpayers also support purchases of public lands through such programs as the Stewardship Fund. No doubt about it, license fees allow us to hire the professional staff and equipment to maintain properties and add amenities. Many people, including hunters enjoy better parking lots and interpretive signs on state property and we continue to encourage wider use by more of the public – anglers, hunters and nonhunters alike. Our properties are managed for a mix of game, nongame animals, habitats, and plant communities.License fees and permits are not merely mixed in with tax revenues. License fees are kept in a separate fund and the Legislature approves appropriations from that fund for natural resource programs. Those license fees cannot be diverted for other projects. We offer seniors reduced rate licenses, but we stopped offering lifetime licenses for a one-time fee in 1991. It was too costly and seniors told us they were willing to pay their share for the natural resource activities they have more time to enjoy in their retirement years. Thanks to support for natural resources, the Legislature did approve very modest increases in license fees which took effect in April.

Second-Story Flyers

Butterfly fans will want to plan a visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum before September 1st to see the new Butterflies Alive! exhibit. A greenhouse with artificial lighting on the second floor contains hundreds of butterflies flitting about as you wander a path. Twenty-five species including swallowtails, sulphurs, fritillaries and monarch butterflies glide overhead and alight on flowers, plants and your head! There's even a butterfly checkpoint at each end of the enclosure to ensure that hitchhikers don't make the great escape into the woodland Indian exhibit across the hall. Surrounding exhibits explain how butterflies use taste, smell, hearing and vision to sort out their world. Other areas discuss butterfly gardening, butterfly diversity, butterfly-inspired postage stamps and butterfly history. The museum at 800 W. Wells Street in Milwaukee, is open every day this summer from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. except on the Fourth of July. General admission charges include access to the Butterflies Alive! exhibit.