By STEVE ERICKSON
I’ve reviewed the newly proposed Langley Wildlife Ordinance. Other than prohibiting feeding wildlife (about time), the ordinance as proposed is contrary to native wildlife conservation. “Feral domestic animals” are defined as “wildlife,” including cats that are outdoors, rats, Langley’s notorious show rabbits and Eastern Gray Squirrels. These cannot be trapped, harmed or killed.
Let’s take cats first. Free-ranging cats – any cat outside – are known to eat 2084 different animal species worldwide: 981 bird, 463 reptile, 431 mammal, 119 insect, 57 amphibian and 33 “other” species (if you must know: Actinopterygii, Arachnida, Chilopoda, Diplopoda, Gastropoda and Malacostraca). (Source: A global synthesis and assessment of free-ranging domestic cat diet, Nature Communications, volume 14, Article number: 7809 (2023)).
I just don’t get it with the cat worship, especially when the intent of the ordinance should be to protect native wildlife. While the Egyptians considered cats deities, does Langley really want to make cat worship the official city religion as the proposed ordinance seems to do?
Consider: Cat eats small bird. That’s okay. Owl or Coyote eats cat. That’s not okay. The peckish owl or rambling canid can be trapped and harmed, but the cat has complete immunity. It’s not fair to put a delectable package of consumable energy in front of native wildlife and then persecute them when they partake. It is simply unjust not to allow any other species to turn the table and make Outdoor Cat the bill of fare.
Now there are other problems with the proposed ordinance: invading eastern gray squirrels can’t be trapped out and killed; neither coyote nor human can eat those plump feral show rabbits and use their nice pelts; rats that are predating on gardens are also considered sacred.
The approach of the proposed ordinance is symptomatic of a much larger problem. Considering the relative values we put on native wild, domestic, and feral critters leads me to the main point.
I’ll be blunt. People are eliminating pretty much every mammal that we don’t eat or haven’t domesticated. Humans now make up 390 million tons of biomass, with our livestock and domesticated animals making up another 690 million tons. All wild marine and terrestrial mammals together now weigh only 60 million tons. That’s 1/18 of the weight of humans and all of our livestock and domesticated mammals together. Domestic cats alone have a total biomass of about 2 million tons, almost double that of the African savanna elephant and four times that of all moose. (SOURCE: The global biomass of wild mammals, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2204892120.)
The above numbers are flashing red lights alerting us to the ongoing mass extinction — the holocaust of all holocausts — we humans are causing. And when we persecute a wild critter because it ate someone’s cat that shouldn’t have been outside in the first place, we are pushing this mass extinction a little further along.
The same goes for killing free-ranging critters that think unprotected free-ranging chickens are nice munchies. Letting invading eastern gray squirrels become established means less habitat and more stress on native Douglas squirrels and song birds. And if we are going to grow plump show rabbits we may as well eat them and use their pelts, since it means less food being imported and less habitat being taken up by lawns elsewhere.
An effective ecologically informed wildlife ordinance would:
1. Declare as its purpose the conservation of native wildlife;
2. Outlaw feeding free roaming mammals;
3. Declare any domestic pet, feral mammal and non-native species that is off leash or free roaming to be potential fair game for wildlife;
4. Allow trapping, killing and consumption by humans of feral and invasive non-native animals.
5. Require instituting protective measures, such as fencing or guard dogs, to protect livestock before removal or lethal force is used against any native wildlife.
The wild ones want to know whose side Langley is on.
Steve Erickson is a South Whidbey resident, co-founder of Whidbey Environmental Action Network and co-owner of Frosty Hollow Ecological Restoration.