Have you noticed a decline in wildlife species on your property? Are there stray cats or dogs wandering the area? Could your own dog or cat be to blame? Many pet owners don’t realize the impact their outside pet may be having on local wildlife.
Although many dog and cat owners keep their pets confined, others allow their animals to roam freely. This results in larger feral populations, which can have detrimental effects on wildlife populations. This is especially true in suburban and rural areas where animal control is rare or nonexistent.
According to the Animal Pet Products Association, more than half of U.S. households own a pet. There are approximately 164 million cats and dogs belonging to these households. The actual number of cats and dogs in the United States is much larger because the statistics do not include feral populations which are impossible to determine.
Domestic and feral cats kill large numbers of birds and small animals annually. Although feral cats kill more animals per year than domestic cats, on average they do not survive as long as domestic cats. The low survival rate of feral cats is due to the lack of protection from disease, predation and starvation. Feral cats may not live long, but few are spayed or neutered, which results in a high reproductive rate. Female cats can have three litters of four to six kittens per year. In addition to killing wildlife, cats also transmit rabies and feline diseases to native animals. Whether feral or domestic, cats can have a large negative impact on local wildlife and ecosystems.
Domestic and feral dogs do not kill as many animals as cats, but they can pose a serious problem in some areas. In order to hunt in the wild, feral dogs may form packs so they can successfully hunt and survive in the wild. Similar to packs of wolves or coyotes, dog packs will stake out a territory and hunt wildlife and livestock. Coyotes are often blamed for damage inflicted by domestic and feral dog packs. Not only do these packs pose a threat to native wildlife, but they are also a danger to humans. People have been attacked and some even killed by packs of wild dogs. Feral dogs may also introduce diseases such as distemper, parvo and rabies, which create serious health related issues for wildlife, domestic animals and humans.
Negative effects on the natural environment can be reduced by following some simple suggestions. One of the best solutions is to keep your pets inside the house or confine them to a yard or pen. Keep a watchful eye on your pets when you let them outside. To avoid disease transmission, renew vaccinations annually. Adequate feeding will provide full stomachs, therefore decreasing temptations to hunt for food. Attach some type of bell or noise maker to their collars so that they can’t easily stalk prey. Above all, have your pet spayed or neutered. It is through responsible pet ownership that domestic dog and cat impacts on local ecosystems can be reduced to a minimum.
Abrams is a Wildlife Biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced September 13th that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved the investment of nearly $11 million in revenue from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to add an estimated 10,640 wetland acres to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The commission also approved $18.4 million in federal funding to conserve more than 95,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitat in the United States under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).
“With these key investments, we are strengthening our wetlands protection though the National Wildlife Refuge System and in other key waterfowl and wildlife habitat throughout North America,” said Salazar, who chairs the commission. “Thanks to the contributions of hunters, stamp collectors, and others who purchase Duck Stamps, our National Wildlife Refuge System continues to provide vital habitat for wildlife as well as pristine places for outdoor recreation for tens of millions of people.”
“Besides providing recreational benefits to the public, our nation’s wetlands provide vital storm protection for coastal areas, hold and slowly release flood waters, and act as filters to cleanse water of impurities,” said Ashe. “Wetlands are vital landscapes for our nation’s birds and other wildlife who rest, feed and breed there throughout the year.”
Of particular note is the commission’s boundary and tract approval at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. By approving the addition of 12,352 acres of the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the commission is protecting one of the highest densities of breeding lesser scaup in North America and the highest density of breeding trumpeter swans in Idaho,Montana and Wyoming.
The purchase and lease of wetland habitat parcels are funded in part with proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Federal Duck Stamp.
♦ Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana – Boundary addition of 12,352 acres, including 810 fee acres at $3,604,500 and 5,834 lease acres at $11,085. The refuge encompasses the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The proposed acquisition will protect wetlands, provide important breeding habitat for 21 species of waterfowl, and secure important water rights.
♦ San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – Boundary addition and price approval for 1,441 fee acres for $2,589,700. The proposed area is part of a rich and productive wetland complex providing wintering, migration, and resident habitat for waterfowl. Thousands of waterfowl winter in the area, including mottled ducks, mallards, northern pintails, gadwalls, widgeons, northern shovelers, blue- and green-winged teal, black-bellied whistling ducks, and ruddy ducks.
♦ Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – Boundary addition and price approval for 200 fee acres; $176,200. The refuge protects important remnant bottomland hardwood and associated habitats for migrating, wintering, and breeding waterfowl, and has been identified as a priority project for the East Texas Bottomland Hardwood Initiative, a component of the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The proposed addition lies in the 100-year floodplain of the Trinity River and contains biologically significant bottomland hardwoods.
♦ Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, New York – 625.39 fee acres; $2,377,000. The flat floor of this basin, composed of deep, rich, muck soils, presents a unique opportunity to acquire lands that can easily be restored to large shallow pools for waterfowl. Restoration of this tract could increase the refuge’s capacity to support an additional 9,000 migratory waterfowl in the spring and more than 18,000 in the fall.
♦ Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon – 23.59 fee acres; $82,500. The Wapato Lake Unit protects and conserves imperiled northern Willamette Valley habitats that support large populations of wintering waterfowl, including tundra swans, mallards, northern pintails, canvasbacks, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaup, and cackling and dusky Canada geese.
♦ Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area, California – 164 easement acres for $309,000 and Blanket Price Approval for 18,581 easement acres up to $3,000 per acre. The WMA supports the last remnant of wetlands and wildlife habitat left in a dramatically altered TulareLake watershed. The wetlands are an important winter foraging and nesting habitat for many waterfowl species, including mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, cinnamon teal, and northern shoveler. TulareBasin wetlands have hosted wintering waterfowl concentrations in excess of 100,000.
♦ Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina – 1,542.83 fee acres; $1,850,000. The tidal freshwater wetlands are some of the most diverse freshwater wetland systems found in North America and offer many important habitats for migratory birds, fish, and resident wildlife. The tract consists of alluvial bottomland hardwoods and a network of oxbow lakes, ephemeral creeks, and tidal lakes and sloughs.
Grants approved at the commission meeting were funded through the NAWCA Standard Grants Program and will support 19 projects in 14 states. Partners will contribute an additional $49.4 million in matching non-federal dollars toward these projects. The projects include:
• California: Butte and Colusa Basins Wetland IV Grantee: Ducks Unlimited, Inc. — Partners will restore and enhance wetlands and uplands that support millions of waterfowl, shorebirds and other migratory bird species, including northern pintail, mallard, white-fronted goose, American avocet and white-faced ibis.
• South Carolina: Santee Delta and Winyah Bay Protection Project: Phase II Grantee: The Nature Conservancy — Partners will protect wetlands and associated uplands to benefit breeding, migrating and wintering birds such as mallards and wood thrush.
• Iowa: Prairie Lakes 6 Wetland Initiative Grantee: Iowa Department of Natural Resources — Partners will restore wetland and grassland complexes and improve management of large prairie marshes to benefit migrating birds and also provide better nesting and brood-rearing habitats for the birds that breed in the area, such as lesser scaup.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission includes Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Representatives John Dingell of Michigan and Robert Wittman of Virginia, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, as well as state representatives as ex officio members who vote on projects located within their respective states.
Passed in 1989, NAWCA provides matching grants to organizations and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada, andMexico.
Mark your calendars for any or all of these fall floats and events
September 22, Saturday – RainGarden Maintenance and Community Float, 8:30am to 1pm, from De Soto to Cedar Creek. Boat rental is waived for this float but you must RSVP on a first come first serve basis. We will meet at the De Soto Access at 8:30am.**
Sept. 23, Sunday – Kaw River Paddling Seminar at Bass Pro Shop in Olathe from 2 to 4pm. The class will highlight types of canoes and kayaks, paddles, personal floatation devices (PFDs) and other equipment that works best for floating the Kaw. We will talk about general and specific safety information on paddling rivers, and show participants how to get information on location of access ramps, Kaw water levels and reservoir releases.**
Sept. 30, Sunday – Youth Fishing Workshop at Bass Pro Shop in Olathe from 2 to 4pm. We will have activities for school aged youth on fishing, the Kansas River and reducing stormwater pollution.**
October 5 & 6, Friday & Saturday – FOK Member Overnight Float from Lecompton toLawrence (bring your own boat.) Meet at LawrenceRiverFrontPark at 4:00pm. Must RSVP
October 7, Sunday – 4H/River Ambassador Float – De Soto to Cedar Creek from 1 to 5pm. This educational float is geared for school aged children and their parents and boat rental will be waived. Must RSVP.
October 12, Friday – Wild and Scenic Film Festival at 7:30pm at Liberty Hall, Lawrence. The festival tour brings together the best of Patagonia’s Wild and Scenic films in a two + hour program that leaves viewers feeling inspired and motivated to go out and make a difference in their community and around the world. Tickets are $10 in advance and may be purchased via“Donate“ or $12 at the door.
November 13, Tuesday – FOK Annual Dinner and Silent Auction from 6 to 10pm at Uncle Buck’s at the Bass Pro Shop in Olathe. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Melinda Daniels, KSU Geology Professor, discussing her research on Kaw in-river dredging. Tickets for the dinner will be [email protected] and RSVP’s must be made by November 9. Silent Auction items are needed for this event so even if you can’t come you can support Friends of the Kaw and the Kansas Riverkeeper.
** Activity of Friends of the Kaw’s JohnsonCounty Stormwater Grant.