Cats threatening Jasper’s bird population

By the Canadian Press

The diversified population of birds in Jasper is being threatened by outdoor cats, says Jasper resident, Ailsa Ross. 

She said public awareness about the need for cat-positive, bird-positive behaviours will help.

“Jasper townsite has so many wonderful birds at this time of year – juncos and tree swallows, robins and hummingbirds have recently flown in all the way from South America, from Mexico and California,” Ross wrote in a letter to the Municipality of Jasper. 

She noted Canada’s birds are in decline – some by over 90 per cent – and that in addition to the climate crisis and habitat destruction, domestic cats greatly add to the risks birds face.

“These birds are at risk of being killed by outdoor cats,” she said.

“It is not cats themselves that are the problem – I love cats, they’re awesome. There’s no problem with having cats. 

“It’s just that outdoor cats are the problem. They do kill birds – that’s a fact.”

Ross included in the letter, “On the very short, one-block walk I take from my apartment to the town creek each morning, I regularly see four pet cats out by themselves.”

She pointed out that being in a national park is a factor in this equation. 

“We’re meant to be a place of extra protection for wildlife. We need to be protecting these birds,” she said. 

Jasper’s Domestic Animal Bylaw states that every owner of a dog or cat has to keep them under physical control. 

Such owners are not permitted to let their dog or cat run at large in the town and if they do they may be fined. Depending on the situation, the municipality may take other measures.

But having a bylaw isn’t enough, Ross said, if there are people who don’t read it or who choose not to follow it. 

She wants to see the “permissive attitude” toward outdoor cats change.

“It’s very normalized – outdoor cats,” she said. “You wouldn’t leave your dog outside, so why leave a cat outside?”

Ross emphasized she is not admonishing those who have cats – instead, she is urging them to keep them to keep them on a leash. 

In doing this, “bit by bit, village by village, town by town, city by city,” the population of birds can increase, she said. 

During council meetings on June 30 and July 7, Jasper’s chief administrative officer Mark Fercho noted bylaw officers have been dealing with complaints about wandering cats. 

And in response to Ross’ letter, the municipality released a reminder to all pet owners that dogs and cats are not allowed to run loose in the town of Jasper. 

“When out and about, dogs and cats should be under your physical control at all times,” said the online reminder, posted on the municipality’s website and Facebook page.

“If you need to run some errands and can’t bring your pet inside a building please secure them to something using a short leash (one metre or less) and don’t leave them for longer than 15 minutes.

“Please make sure your pets don’t cause damage to property, people or other animals.”

All pets must be licensed annually. Licences can be purchased by contacting the Administration Office at 780- 852-3356. 

-Mabel Amber photo

By Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Jasper Fitzhugh

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