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Editorial: Birds need a little more help surviving cats

** ADVANCE FOR THE WEEKEND EDITIONS MARCH 5-6 AND THEREAFTER ** Feral cats feed after Kerry Teale put out food

** ADVANCE FOR THE WEEKEND EDITIONS, MARCH 5-6 AND THEREAFTER ** Feral cats feed after Kerry Teale put out food for the felines that volunteers have been feeding for the past 10 years Monday, Feb. 21, 2005, in Anoka, Minn. (AP Photo/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Joe Rossi)

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Updated: April 22, 2013 12:03PM

A fair amount of feathers and fur flew Tuesday when bird lovers and cat lovers squared off at a forum hosted by the County Board’s Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to talk about feral cats.

If one message emerged, it’s that the county still has an overpopulation of feral — or wild — cats and that their destruction of mammals and birds — including migratory birds — remains a problem. Although the county has put a program in place to manage feral cats, additional solutions are needed.

Under the current program, feral cat colonies are managed by PAWS Chicago, Tree House Humane Society and five other area humane societies. Since 2007, 12,000 free-roaming cats have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated. The county estimates this has prevented the birth of 336,000 cats and that the overall feral cat population is “gradually diminishing.”

But a recent study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and U.S. Fish and wild Life Service concluded that cats — feral felines, strays and pets that roam outdoors — nationwide kill up to 3.7 billion birds a year and 20.7 billion wild mammals. Feral cats are the worst offenders.

The county says its “trap-neuter-return” program, in which cats are returned to the outdoors after being sterilized, microchipped and given rabies shots, is more humane and cost-effective than an early euthanization effort being made by some municipalities. The euthanization approach cost more and didn’t reduce the feral cat population, according to Donna Alexander, director of the county’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control.

The “trap-neuter-return” program is progress. But there still are a lot of feral cats out there.

The birds are asking for a little more help here, folks.

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