Managing feral-cat populations

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A feral cat comes out of the underbrush to check out roadkill along Ahukini Road Friday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A feral cat keeps an eye on the rooster approaching a discarded plate lunch at Ahukini Friday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A feral cat eyes food being eaten by a feral chicken at Ahukini Thursday.

LIHU‘E — Artificial lights often disorient adult and fledging petrel and shearwater, causing the birds to fall out of the sky and drop to the ground, often becoming prey.

In May 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan.

As a participant, the county must be permitted, and a line item for that paperwork appears on its budget at $425,000 this year. That’s the same as what is proposed in the administration’s fiscal-year 2022 budget, which spans July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2020.

The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation takes the lead on these services because the department manages many of the facilities that host triggering lights, William Trugillo, the chief of planning and development for the department, said Thursday in a departmental budget meeting before the County Council.

Trugillo said the department has identified about 60 county-owned properties that have lighting that requires predator control.

“There is no way that the county will be able to afford to manage that control for all 60 properties,” Trugillo said, so the county has worked with state and other agencies to locate priority areas.

“It’s not the ideal that the agencies would want,” Trugillo said. “They would want monitoring and control at all properties all the time but, financially and manpower-wise, I don’t think there’s an agency on Kaua‘i that would be able to do it year-round. We’re doing what we can with what we have.”

The county self-monitors by searching and reporting downed seabirds at facilities, according to a May KSHCP Participant Inclusion Plan prepared by the county.

“Over the past decade, stray light has been minimized to the maximum extent practicable by either replacing or modifying the fixtures or by instituting operational procedures and controls that prevent or minimize their use during periods when they are likely to disorient protected seabirds,” the plan reads.

The Kaua‘i Humane Society stopped accepting feral cats for euthanasia in 2020. Without a predator-control entity, the county had to seek another option, leading to a contract with Hallux Ecosystem Restoration, LLC, in December, to provide predator-management in county facilities. In fiscal-year 2021, the county allocated $50,000 to feral-cat control. This upcoming fiscal year, the budget proposes $120,000.

Over the last few months, KHS has reached the status of a no-kill shelter.

“Having people bring cats in for euthanasia doesn’t solve the cat problem,” KHS Executive Director Nicole Schafer Crane said.

Schafer Crane explained that cat populations typically occur where there are food sources, human attention or a habitable environment.

“If you pull cats out of there, it makes space for more cats,” Schafer Crane said. However, if trap, neuter and release (TNR) methods are used, population growth can be slowed.

In March, the National Animal Care and Control Association, an authority and guidance for humane officers, recently took a stance promoting TNR, leaving cats where they are found and creating protection programs.

Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro said that if the county doesn’t participate in the HCP, even-higher federal fines would eventually trickle down to taxpayers.

“A lot of focus is on cats versus birds, but the reality is it’s to protect residents,” Kaneshiro said. “This allows us to have lights at convention hall at night, lights for tennis courts and lights for football games and lights around the county.”

Kaneshiro said it’s a give and take.

“The fallout is that we have to do this HCP plan and pay a lot of money for and do the cat contract,” Kaneshiro said.

Councilmember Felicia Cowden said feral-cat control is a widely-discussed issue in council testimony.

“We have gotten more letters of concern for the cats than (we have) ever gotten of concern for the people that are struggling in the parks,” Cowden said Thursday. “So, that certainly catches my attention.”

Schafer Crane said it’ll take the work of multiple organizations working together to come up with multi-faceted solutions, like TNR combined with transferring cats off the island, establishing a cat sanctuary and providing assistance to cat-colony caretakers.

“You don’t have to just be a cat lover. You don’t have to just be a bird lover,” Schafer Crane said.

8 Comments
  1. Mark April 4, 2021 2:55 am Reply

    Arryl Kaneshiro’s comments are laughable…..the county taxpayer should be spending large amounts of money every year for a “solution” that anyone who has ever read research on the topic doesn’t work (thank you KHS for becoming enlightened on the greater efficacy of TNR than extermination)….and then admits it’s so we can have lights at football games. Kaneshiro and crowd need to rethink their priorities


  2. Reena Sall April 4, 2021 12:47 pm Reply

    You have got to be kidding me! I would love for you to ask every kid under the lights at a football game if they would approve 120000 dollars of cat killing so they can play at night… and then see what they say…. im pretty sure that 120k could be spent in a much more efficient way. The stupidity literally astounds me…


  3. Randy Kansas April 4, 2021 1:46 pm Reply

    cats are nasty and gross, get rid of them all….


  4. Guy E. Collins April 4, 2021 5:36 pm Reply

    I am a strong believer in TNR thru personal experience eliminating 18-22 feral cats this past year that invaded our property. 8 were adopted, 8 left the area and I care for 4-6 that occasionally come for fresh cold water and quality food I give them. Humans are the problem not animals and we are responsible for their existence based on decisions we make.


  5. George Ho April 4, 2021 6:43 pm Reply

    Pathetic. Any strays that are not collared or micro-chipped should be euthanized. There is no debate with ignorant people who don’t get it.


  6. Uncleaina April 5, 2021 6:37 am Reply

    Anyone who supports TNR on Kauai STILL- hasn’t paid attention. We have 20,000 feral cats. There’s zero way you can TNR 70% of them to achieve population control! This is mainly a dance by KHS who wants money for TNR from the county and bird supporters who get money from KIUC. The endangered birds are dying people. Google feral cats shearwaters and watch the videos of feral cats all over the island eating highly endangered birds for fun! Then call KHS and ask how they continue to support this. Google Animal Balance – a team of veterinarians who do TNR but only on tropical islands. The hypocrisy is deep with these folks. Everyone associated with TNR will be responsible when the last rare native Hawaiian bird dies.


    1. Diane Kawamoto April 5, 2021 12:55 pm Reply

      Thank you Guy Collins for being a compassionate human being. I totally agree with you. People only complain but will not be humane enough to take the time to help trap to have them spayed or neutered and released.


  7. Duff Smith April 6, 2021 10:29 am Reply

    Regarding Schafer Cranes saying that “If you pull cats out of there, it makes space for more cats.” Are you kidding me? It’s an island. Try trapping and removing in earnest for once, and while you’re at it ALSO stop restricting property owners from solving their own cat problems when the people responsible for animal control are professional failures, and mouthpieces for the pet food industry.


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