Run, Fluffy, Run!

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

March 16, 2005

Run, Fluffy, Run!

A proposal to be discussed during the Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings suggests that free-roaming, domestic cats should be designated an “unprotected species” that could be hunted by anyone holding a small-game license. But before you decide to arm Fluffy, be sure to read about the Michigan cat that shot its owner with a handgun this week, and about the Michigan state park that has posted more than a dozen mountain lion warning placards.

J.R. Absher

Trophy Tabby Hunting?

Wisconsin cat owners may want to keep a closer tab on their tabbies if hunter Mark Smith gets his way. Smith, from La Crosse, has proposed an open season on feral cats in the state, noting that free-ranging felines have an enormous negative impact on game birds and other feathered friends. His proposal will be placed before hunters on April 11 at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the body that makes recommendations to the Department of Natural Resources and the state legislature on natural resources issues.

Smith’s proposal is fueled by research done by University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife ecology professor Stanley Temple, who trapped more than 100 cats and analyzed their stomach contents during a 4-year period. His study concluded that as many as 219 million birds are killed by roaming, rural cats in Wisconsin annually.

Temple said that he believes the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to declare rural cats an unprotected species — based on reasoning that feral, un-owned cats can be considered non-native wildlife species such as house mice, Norway rats, pigeons, and starlings.

“If they are not a pet, if somebody doesn’t claim ownership, they become a non-native wildlife species and not entitled to protection by the state,” he said.

Temple is aware that his concept of an open season on kitties is “obviously, a very controversial proposal,” but he said he believes that the impact of free-roaming felines on birds, especially ground-nesting gamebirds, is irrefutable.

Cats Fight Back

You might think that a kitty in Michigan heard about the hubbub in the state across the lake last week and decided to fight back.

Michigan State Police reported that an Upper Peninsula man cooking in his kitchen was shot after one of his cats knocked his 9mm handgun onto the floor, discharging the weapon.

According to police, Joseph Stanton of Bates Township was struck by a bullet in the lower torso. There’s no word if that’s where the cat was aiming.

Really Big, Really Mean Kitties

Regular readers of the Outdoor News Hound may recall the story a couple of weeks back about the recent reports of mountain lion sightings in Michigan, as well as the confirmation of a cougar’s DNA taken from hair found on a car bumper following an incident in the Upper Peninsula.

Now, National Park Service authorities at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Empire, Mich., have erected signs warning park users about the potential threat posed by cougars there. Signs are prominently posted at the park’s visitor centers and all 13 trailheads in the wake of repeated cougar sightings in and around the park west of Traverse City.

The park’s message is simple and is intended to raise public awareness: You may be in Michigan, but it’s also cougar country.

The National Park Service wants the 1.1 million annual visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes to know what to do if they encounter cougars — especially after a 2003 incident in which a park volunteer said she was stalked by a cougar along a trail for about 20 minutes. Reports of sightings in the park have increased from one every few years in the early 1980s to 20 a year in the park at the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Despite the posting of warning signs at the federal park, a spokesman for the Michigan DNR said the state wouldn’t follow suit at state or county facilities.

“They can do what they feel they need to do, but we don’t have warnings,” agency spokesman Brad Wurfel said last week in a Cadillac News article.

Sportsmen’s Ally Leaves FWS

One of the most diligent proponents for American sportsmen announced last Friday that he is leaving the federal government to pursue other career opportunities. Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2002, has been a strong ally of hunters and anglers within the agency, and leaves behind a legacy of improvements for the nation’s sportsmen and women.

In a message to Service employees, Williams said: “During the last three years, the employees of Fish and Wildlife Service have accomplished much of what I envisioned when I became director. Working together, we have strengthened our partnerships with state fish and wildlife agencies, hunters, anglers, industry, private landowners, and conservation organizations; focused on scientific integrity in all we do; and restored a balance to our overall conservation efforts.”

Williams will move to serve as president of the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), a private, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization committed to the conservation, enhancement and professional management of North America’s wildlife, and other natural resources. He will begin his tenure with the group immediately following the North American Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference next week.

Quote Of The Week

“The best decoys for ducks are real ducks with built-in quacks, feathers and love lives. When the Feds put a stop to live decoys they did the wild ducks a big favor, but they took a lot of fun out of duck hunting for those of us who could sit through much of a shotless bluebird day without being bored, spending our time watching live decoys which had varied personalities, the same as politicians or bird dogs.”

-Charley Waterman

“For Whom The Bird Tolls”

“Ridge Runners and Swamp Rats,” 1983

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom ( and The Outdoor Weblog ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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