Temporarily Suspends Lethal Practices and Policies Regarding Removal of Feral Cats
The East Bay Regional Park District General Manager has called for a temporary suspension of lethal removal of feral cats by District staff until a full review of current practices and policies can be discussed openly with the EBRPD Board of Directors. The Park District will be reviewing its wildlife management practices and policies regarding how best to protect the District’s endangered species as required by California and Federal regulations.
“The Park District Board and our staff understand the community’s concern regarding the recent removal of feral cats from endangered species habitat at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline,” said General Manager Robert Doyle. “We have a legal responsibility to protect specific endangered or listed species to help avoid extinction of these valuable resources. Feral cats have no place in parks, and we implore the public to not abandon or feed domestic animals of any kind in the regional parks.”
Doyle added that “the practice of lethal removal of cats is the exception and not the rule, only after other options such as trapping are unsuccessful.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, located near the Oakland Airport, is a sensitive ecological area and location stop along the Pacific Flyway where thousands of birds annually nest including several listed or endangered species: Ridgway’s rail, California black rail, least tern, and burrowing owl, as well as the salt marsh harvest mouse. Predatory feral cats dumped or fed by humans in the marshland is illegal under the Park District’s rules and cause conflict for the Park District and great danger for the native wildlife. An out-of-control feral cat colony of at least 30 cats was being fed, spay/neutered, and released back into the District habitat by cat-friendly volunteers at an adjacent office park.
The Ridgway’s rail, now found only in the remaining marshes of the San Francisco Bay Area, is critically endangered. The population of rails inhabit the San Leandro Bay complex of marshes, which includes Arrowhead Marsh, new Marsh, and the rest of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline. The Park District estimates fewer than 65-75 rails inhabit Arrowhead and New Marsh, and only eight rails were detected in Damon Marsh along the east shore of San Leandro Bay last winter.
The MLK, Jr. shoreline represents a last stronghold for the Ridgway’s rail in the Central Bay Area, which is isolated from other populations of rails in the bay by human development. The District has been working to save the Ridgway’s rail for over two decades and partners with state, federal, and non-governmental organizations in monitoring, management, and habitat restoration efforts to save this species.
“This is a bad situation, and we need the public’s help to not release, abandon, or feed cats in any of our parks,” added Doyle.
Cats in the wild are considered feral and not only illegal on Park District lands but extremely harmful to the environment that the Park District is required to protect. The Park District will provide more public education about the environmental detriment to the species wildlife managers are attempting to preserve from extinction. Park District Wildlife Protection and Free-Ranging Cats Brochure
“The Park District commits to working more closely with shelter organizations like Oakland Animal Services and their affiliate shelters from other communities to assist in removal of predatory animals,” said Doyle. “We are grateful for their support.”
Between October 26 and November 13, 2020, ten feral cats were lethally removed from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline near Edgewater Marsh, Damon Slough, and Garretson Point because of their predatory behaviors toward the wildlife. One additional feral cat was trapped and picked up by Oakland Animal Services on Oct 28 at Garretson Point at the park.
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor