May 10th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 19
No solution to the feral cat issue yet
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is working to find a solution to the spread of feral cats in West Coleman, but the solution is anything but clear-cut.

The old Coleman Collieries operation has been closed since the 1980s and stood abandoned for many years until its demolition in 2013. Once torn down, a feral cat problem became apparent with an influx into Coleman.

“When they tore down the tipple in Coleman, that was an eye opener. No one realized how many feral cats were living in that tipple,” says Wendy Zack, a coordinator with the Crowsnest Pass SPCA.

Neither Peace Officer Mike Wilson, nor any of the vet clinics and animal shelters in the area were able to provide an approximate number as to how many feral cats currently live in Coleman, but all agreed that they are a nuisance and a health risk that if not addressed, will only continue to get worse.

A variety of issues arise from the feral cats, from mild annoyances like digging up peoples’ gardens and defecating in their yards, to more serious health, spread of disease and hygiene concerns.
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Many of the feral cats have upper respiratory diseases, panleukopenia, mites, and with the potential for fights with domestic cats, little domestic Joey is just as at-risk of developing these diseases, many of which can even be transferred through body fluids in the soil.

“It’s just an unpleasant environment. They’ve become breakfast lunch and supper for the wildlife in this area. People run them over. Dogs mutilate them. They mutilate each other, and they spread disease,” says Zack.

There is also the potential of these cats attacking other pets, small dogs, small children, not to mention the simple notion of sentimental appeal.

No clear-cut solution

Fire Chief/Manager of Protective Services Jesse Fox and Wilson have discussed the issue at Protective Services meetings and are working to find a solution to the existing problem.

“We’re working to find a suitable solution that doesn’t mean taking them to the vet and having them put down,” says Wilson, who also points out that Crowsnest Pass is not unique in the feral cat situation.

They have reached out to other communities that have societies who take in feral cats and various barnyard cat programs that relocate feral cats to farms, but everyone is at capacity.

Wilson points to the Better Chance Animal Rescue group as a key player in rescuing and relocating the feral cats out of Coleman.
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“They have the passion, desire and ability to take the time to deal with these cats. That’s great and we rely on them,” he says.

Christy Pool, a volunteer with Better Chance, is one of the dedicated individuals. This year alone, she has picked up just under 40 cats from Coleman, usually kittens, and brings them to Better Chance where they get vetted and are socialized until they are able to be adopted out.

“But what we’re finding is that we’re not even making a dent, even taking full litters at a time,” she says. “What we need is a big program to do a big cleanup of spay and neuter, whether it’s spay-neuter-take for adoption, or spay-neuter-release.”

Zack, representing the local SPCA, says the organization does what they can by posting photos of adoptable kittens on their social media pages, but due to space and caring concerns, is unable to do anything more.
Prevention starts at education

All parties agree that the solution to the problem requires a sensible and humane approach that begins with education, urging the public to spay and neuter their pets, not letting their cats outside and not abandoning them if unwanted.

“It’s an ongoing problem. There is no real solution until everyone realizes to spay and neuter their pets. First, it’s to address the education of the community,” says Zack. “If there were a resource for funding, if we could access that, we would trap, spay and neuter and then release.”

Cats can start having kittens as early as six months and can birth as many as two to three litters per year of one to eight kittens, making it apparent that the feral cat community can quickly exacerbate past the problematic level it’s at now.

According to Pool, there is already an increase in feral cat numbers in Frank.
May 10th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 19
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