Posts Tagged ‘Cats’

Regular visitors to the riverblog know that I comment on everything that doesn’t belong in this environment which takes in more than man-made debris.  Invasive species, non-native species, and domesticated animals turned loose are changing the ecosystem too.  Recently, I posted about the growing feral cat problem I’ve been observing in the park.  Kind hearted people have been trying to take care of them by dumping dry cat food around the picnic tables near the Interpretive Center.  As a reminder, here is another photograph illustrating this.

Sometimes I see what seems to me to be a ridiculous amounts of food spread out in this area.  Returning from a hike in the park’s western section, I stopped to watch three cats that were eating dry cat food that had been spread along the curb of the parking lot. 

From the corner of my eye I saw something moving in the brush and thought it might be a fourth cat joining in the feast…but it wasn’t.

It was a raccoon and only the second one I’ve seen in broad daylight out here.  Usually, these animals are more reclusive than this and prefer to operate under the cover of darkness, but here was this adult raccoon making a bee-line for the cat food.

I don’t view this as a good thing for all species concerned here.  Granted, the high river was probably cutting off some of the territory that the raccoon would forage over and this animal was hungry.  Wild animals that become habituated to man usually don’t fare well.  And in this case, there is a real danger that if this raccoon had rabies…it could transmit it to the cats who regularly come in contact with people.  By being out in broad daylight near an area populated by people, this raccoon was already displaying atypical behavior.

To my eye, the cats seemed less wary than the raccoon who is supposed to be a wild animal.  This scene was broken up when visitors with a dog on a leash came too close and the cats and coon ran into the woods.  I’m confidant that whomever is dumping cat food out here is not thinking about unintended consequences…but they should.  I’m not against cats, but I don’t think we should encourage them to live near wild life.  Recently, I found two objects left behind by the flooding that illustrate our affection for felines and I’ll end this post with them.  Until next time.



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At the eastern end of the Falls of the Ohio State Park is where I see the most bird species.  It is also the area that seems to trap the most driftwood after we have had a bout of high water.  Material of all kinds collects between the high walls of the dam and the steep riverbank itself.  There is another sizeable collection of driftwood on the other side of the dam’s wall that is just waiting for the river to rise before depositing another layer of wood and debris in the park.  The bowl-like depression created in this space cuts across a few distinct habitats and is also protected from the wind which is why I think the birds like this spot.

On this day I was doing my birdwatching thing and trying to photograph some of the warbler species that migrate through here in the fall.  It’s a real challenge for many reasons.  First, there is still enough foliage around that it is hard to get an unobstructed view of a bird.  Second, the migrating warblers are now much duller in color having lost their breeding plumage, can be hard to identify.  In some cases, the differences can be dramatic between how a species appears in the spring and how they look on their autumnal migration south.  Added challenges also include that these birds are very small and extremely active.  They don’t sit still for long.  On those occasions when I get a picture that I like…I feel more like a fortunate opportunist than as a photographer with any skills.  I know I’m rambling, but I need to set the scene first before getting to the point of this post!  It took a bit of luck and patience just to obtain the above photo of this first year American Redstart and it looked like this bird was going to hang out a bit and I was well concealed and anticipating more images when something very interesting happened.  There was movement in the brush below the bird which flew off and I was left with this quickly snapped photograph!

I just witnessed a failed hunting attempt by the Flat-faced Cat.  It’s an unusual mutation that has occurred among the resident feral cats which seem to be gaining in population in this park.  To me, this is a big point of concern because in addition to the garbage left behind from picnics…they are also preying upon and eating the small wildlife found in the park.

So, where are these cats living?  I have literally found them throughout the park where they can find shelter.  I tracked the Flat-faced Cat back to a den under the driftwood.  The interlocking logs have created a structure that has many natural tunnels and rooms.  It can also be dangerous because the wood is always shifting under its own weight as it breaks down from environmental exposure.  I’m sure that it can’t be an easy life for these cats.

Since our first encounter, I have taken an interest in this particular animal.  It always runs away once it spots me and is now completely wild.  I see it the most when I’m in the Willow Habitat and I think we are after the same thing!  We are both hungry for wildlife, but in very different ways.  I recently observed and photographed this cat hunting lizards basking on the sun-drenched logs.  First an image of its intended prey.

The blue tail marks this as the young of the Five-line Skink.  This is a fairly common lizard in this park and the one most people are likely to encounter.  While I was hiding behind a sizeable willow tree, I saw the Flat-faced Cat attempt another unsuccessful hunt and took these images.

Now, don’t let its cute face fool you.  Out in the woods, this animal is all business when it comes to hunting.  I’ve looked at a few articles on the web about the cat predation problem and interestingly there is some controversy.  There are studies from Great Britain and California that suggest that feral and domestic cats take millions of songbirds and small animals a year.  Societies devoted to cats, however, dispute the evidence and say that there aren’t good studies to back this assertion up.  When all else fails…turn to anecdotal evidence!  How many of you out there who own cats that are allowed to roam outdoors have been “gifted” with dead birds and other little animals on your door steps?  I have a hunch that many cat owners have had this experience.  Now multiply these “gifts” with the millions of cats that are out in the world and the studies probably aren’t too far off.  The studies also suggest that the hunting instinct is so well engrained…that even very well fed cats can’t resist that little chipmunk running around the backyard.

Of course, feral cats are not the only cause for the decline in the numbers of songbirds.  There are pressures of all kinds and habitat loss and environmental degradation play their huge parts.  Still, the domestic cat is not something that occurs “naturally” in our wild environments.  Responsible pet owners should never set unwanted pets loose where they don’t belong.  Responsible owners also have their pets spayed or neutered to further limit the population of unwanted pets.  It’s kinder to all living things to do this. Looking through my archives, I remembered that I had seen another feral cat that looked a lot like the cat which is the subject of this post and here is its image.

I photographed this big tom cat on the fossil beds near the Interpretive Center.  It had only one eye and sported this murderous looking paw!  Who knows it may be a direct ancestor of the Flat-faced Cat?

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