The island of Kauai has so many stray cats, it's actually affecting Hawaii's bird population -- even worse, they're endangered birds.
Scientists have recently reported that feral cats are killing endangered seabirds at high numbers even in remote and rugged areas of the island, according to Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP).
Researchers installed high-tech cameras in remote breeding sites in order to learn what has been causing the bird species to be declining. Twenty-five instances of cats have been captured on camera this season alone, including two where the birds were killed. Nine endangered birds have also been found dead at various sites around the island, according to a press release from Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
"It's actually really shocking how often even in these extremely remote parts of the island where you'd imagine perhaps cats might not even be, we've got cats there all the time," Andre Raine, coordinator of the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, told Hawaii News Now. "In one instance last year, we had a cat hit nine different burrows over the course of a single day."
In this KESRP video released last week, a feral cat can be seen entering an endangered Newell's Shearwater burrow and emerging with the bird in its mouth. The remains of the bird were found by KESRP field workers.
In order to mitigate the feral cat problem, the Kauai County Council created a task force to examine the issue and recommend how to best manage the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 feral cats on the island. A report by the task force, which was released in March, was presented at a council meeting on July 2, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Among the report's many recommendations -- including strengthening the island's cat licensing ordinance, prohibiting the feeding of cats on any county property, implementing a public education program and a strong TNRM (trap-neuter-return-manage) program -- it also lists euthanasia as a possible solution.
The Kauai Community Cat Project, a local group that hopes to resolve the issue through the practice of TNRM, disagrees with the task force's findings.
"We do NOT support the findings of the task force," the group posted on its Facebook page on June 27. The group believes TNRM is the best way to address the feral cat situation.
People in the community can start helping out by ensuring their pet cats are spayed or neutered, and kept inside.
“It’s particularly important that people avoid feeding stray and feral cats and contact their local humane society for assistance," DLNR chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. said in the statement. "Ultimately there should be no feral cats roaming outside -- it’s unsafe for the cats, bad for their health, and it’s killing our endangered wildlife.”