Editor: I read with interest the article written by Sara Wittenberg dated May 2, 2013, entitled “Hollow Victory: Mine claim markers still killing birds, four years after ban put into effect.” In it, she shares some estimates that seem astounding: roughly a million birds a year killed by these hollow mine claim markers!
This got me to thinking about a statistic that I had heard some time back. I found an article in USA Today that quotes biologists who are conducting a study of birds killed by “predators, chemicals, and in collisions with wind generators and windows.” The study is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Peter Marra, one of the study’s authors and an ornithologist from the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute, said:
“Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for U.S. birds and mammals.”
Cats! To the tune of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds killed each and every year in the U.S. alone! It makes an old mine claim marker sound pretty benign by comparison.
Simply put, cats are predators and are pretty good at catching and killing birds — to the tune of 3.8 to 10 million birds each and every day in the United States.
Now, I’m not going to get into an argument over what to actually do about this particular issue. I don’t want to get between cat lovers and bird lovers. I would simply like to point out that this is what predators do to prey. This is how the natural world works. If we, as humans and as stewards over the land, feel a need to create an environment where a prey species is to thrive and grow in population, then the simplest and most effective method to doing this is to monitor and control the predator population.
That is why I support what the Elko County Commissioners are sponsoring at the Devil’s Gate Ranch in regards to increasing the sage grouse population there. As well intended as they may be, any other effort to protect sage grouse will surely fail as long as there is an overabundance of predators in relation to the prey.