The Problem
For well over a century, BC’s birds have faced an increasing number of threats to their survival. Challenges include loss of habitat due to agriculture, logging, residential and commercial development, pesticide use, hunting, disease, the introduction of invasive species, and predation by domestic and feral cats, as well as some dogs.
As the State of the World’s Birds 2010 report recently identified numerous species in trouble, officially adding climate change to the list of threats, it’s clear the ominous prediction by Canadian naturalist Trevor Herriot may be coming true. We are destroying our bird populations, and their epitaph will read: “Death by Too Many Cuts.”
The Responsibility
Over 300 species of birds breed each year in BC - more than any other province in Canada. Sixty-five species breed nowhere else in Canada and for several species, BC holds the majority of the world population. Situated along the Pacific Flyway that extends from Patagonia to Alaska, our province is also one of the world’s top birding destinations.
For these reasons, every municipality plays a pivotal role in bird conservation efforts. As stewards of local environments, urban and rural, you must do your part to help our birds safely feed, nest and raise their young. It’s a responsibility municipalities can’t turn away from or rely on others to manage. Every year, millions of BC’s birds are needlessly killed. This means every municipality has the ability— independently and collectively—to make a significant difference.
What Municipalities Can Do – Immediate Priorities
1.    Update Animal Control Bylaws and Adopt Cat Licensing: It’s spring 2010 and almost every municipality in BC is facing the impacts of cat overpopulation, both domestic and feral. Current strategies, saddled by archaic animal control bylaws, are not working. The reason: Current bylaws do not address the root cause of the problem—Irresponsible Cat Owners. As a result, BC’s breeding birds and their valuable fledglings will again face killing fields in every municipality. With over 2 million domestic and feral cats in BC, most allowed free-roam, predation rates are out of control. To make matters worse, this “cut” to BC’s birds is entirely preventable. A few municipalities have made progressive changes. Most, however, still stuck in the past on this issue, continue to do nothing. ACTIONS REQUESTED: Upgrade animal control bylaws to include progressive controls on free-roaming cats, spay-neuter requirements, public education and cat licensing as part of a Responsible Cat Ownership Program in BC.
Established cat licensing programs currently exist in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto and Ottawa, to name a few.
2.    Say “NO” to the controversial practice of TNR or trap-neuter-return as a feral population control strategy. A select group of feral cat activists have been hard-selling municipal staff and politicians with inflated claims, emotional pleas and pseudo-science. Real scientists have weighed in on TNR. It’s bad for cats, bad for birds, and a potential disaster for the environment and public health. TNR also creates a liability and municipalities are unprepared for the consequences. Please see attachments.
3.    Update Bylaws for Pesticide Use: The Community Charter gives local governments the ability to make pesticide by-laws that prohibit their use for the purpose of maintaining landscapes on residential or municipal land. The environmental concerns are soil, water, or air pollution and damage to non-target organisms including plants, birds, wildlife, fish, crops, and of course – people.  The main causes of this harmful pollution are inappropriate application, spray or vapour drift, spills, backflow, and improper disposal of chemicals or containers. By creating progressive bylaws governing pesticide use and following safe practices, every municipality in BC can make a difference.
What Municipalities Can Do – Ongoing and Long-term
1.    As residential and commercial developments are proposed and planned, ensure an environmental review is completed, and consult with local and provincial conservationists and experts.
2.    Step-up Public Education – Environmentally, many citizens are way ahead of you, some are well behind. For both groups, offer leadership and direction that will build a green municipality.
3.    Set goals for Environmental Stewardship, Responsible Pet Ownership and Community Conservation. Get creative, win awards or simply reap the benefits of a healthy and progressive municipality that takes care of its people and its birds.

Established cat licensing programs currently exist in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto and Ottawa, to name a few.


Other Resource Links related to letter:

Longcore, T., C. Rich, and L. M. Sullivan. 2009. Critical assessment of claims regarding management of feral cats by trap–neuter–returnConservation Biology 23(4):887-894

SPCA supportive of cat licensing idea



Cat Licensing - Toronto