SAMUEL: Some things are hard to imagine


It’s hard to imagine that people are releasing feral cats into the wild to eat rats, but some say that is happening. A group called Tree House Humane Society has released 1,000 feral cats in Chicago to help with the city’s rat problem. I went to their website to see what they are about. It says that “Hundreds of thousands of cats live on the streets of Chicago. Some are stray or abandoned. Many are feral. All need care to be healthy and thrive. Tree House provides multiple programs to make sure that these cats have what they need.” 

It’s a bit confusing, but, apparently, this organization has a “Cats at Work” program that takes feral cats, not house cats, that have to be relocated for some reasons (that I can’t quite figure out from the information given on the website) from where they live in the wild. These cats are spayed, neutered and vaccinated then released back into the wild. Ten to 12 feral cats a month have been relocated since 2012. They are placed in or near cat colonies near caretakers who provide food and water. Apparently, there are hundreds of cat colonies around Chicago where these cats live in the wild.  

In 2007, Cook County passed the Managed Care of Feral Cats Ordinance that permits the formation of cat colonies where groups of feral cats live. Apparently, the “rat” part of this story stems from interviews with citizens who state that they had lots of rats before they got these Cats at Work cats. The website does discuss the problem with feral cats killing birds but they indicate that even so, the cats and birds are better off because of their various programs. Check out the Tree House Humane Society website for some interesting reading.  

Rattlesnakes in West Virginia

Some things are hard for some to imagine, but the facts are that you cannot kill, capture, or keep rattlesnakes in West Virginia. Since 2016, Frank Jernejcic, retired DNR biologist and resident of Cheat Lake, has been studying rattlesnakes at Coopers Rock State Forest. Others are involved including a Master’s Degree graduate student from Marshall. His report shows that there have been 21 rattlesnakes killed on roads within Coopers Rock State Forest since 2016. The West Virginia Department of Highways installed six signs on roads within Coopers Rock to slow traffic and make vehicle drivers more aware of the snakes. Data shows that many rattlesnakes are encountered on those roads and traffic waits till the snakes are safely across. Apparently, the information signs are helping.  

From 2016 to 2019, the public encountered 287 rattlesnakes at Coopers Rock. It is now illegal to kill rattlesnakes in West Virginia, but we still have people who don’t get it. Six snakes were purposely killed from 2017 to 2020. Two were killed by two Maryland men on June 16, 2017, at Ravens Rock. One was killed at the Henry Clay Iron Furnace on June 28, 2018. Efforts to apprehend those criminals were unsuccessful. In August of 2019, and June of 2020, dead rattlers with the rattles removed were found on the Rock City Trail and in June of 2020 a snake was found dead with the rattles removed on the Raven Rock Trail.   

Educating the public on the value of snakes is a slow process, but progress is being made. I understand that some people just don’t want to handle snakes, but killing them serves no purpose in most cases. Those exotic pythons that are now breeding in southern Florida and devastating native wildlife, are an exception and do need to be eliminated. Though total elimination isn’t possible, keeping populations in check helps wildlife.