After a protest and possibilities of euthanizing coyotes and feral cats alike, Cal State University Long Beach revoked its plan to remove the 150-plus feral cats residing on campus and is working out a policy with long-time cat caretakers.
The California Department of Fish and Game investigated the situation on-site July 12, concluding that the coyote species report issued by Brian McKinnon, CSULB manager of grounds and services, was not confirmed.
According to Fish and Game Investigator S. Garcia, “The cats would be a secondary food source to the coyotes.” Garcia explained in the report that their primary food source would be the cats’ food and water located at the various feeding stations on campus, which according to McKinnon and Pat Meredith, a CSULB alumna and cat caretaker for Campus Animal Assistance since 1998, is a total of about 2-4 lbs. of cat food daily.
After the decision came to reverse their plans for the feral cats, university officials and members of the Animal Assistance, who have been implementing cat adoption and a trap, neuter and release (TNR) program on campus already, discussed ways to establish a more formal policy in regards to the feral cat population on Wednesday. “In circumstances such as CSULB’s, the strong likelihood is that a feral cat population will always be present,” said Toni Beron, associate vice president of CSULB’s University Relations in an e-mail.
“However, the current population is far too large for a campus of our size and density. In these circumstances, strict adherence to a management program works to the best advantage of all involved.”
The Wednesday meeting ran by Administration and Finance Vice President Mary Stephens was the first of several meetings and negotiations; therefore policy issues are tentative.
“The plan has not been finalized,” Beron said. “What we’re trying to do is move in a positive direction in taking care of the cats.” The university will be working directly with Animal Assistance in adoption plans and the spay-neuter and vaccination processes in which the Assistance has already been doing for the last 10 years.
The policy for adoption will include kittens found on campus and domesticated cats that are frequently abandoned by community members. Maintenance of the feral cat feeding stations will also be part of the university’s policy.
“An important part of the feral cat management policy is how the cats are to be fed,” Beron said. “Therefore, the policy calls for significantly fewer feeding locations, placement of food in bowls at specific times with removal of food and bowls before dark everyday.”
With the university helping, it is hoped by the Assistance that the management will be more effective in keeping a low cat population.
“It would be a wonderful thing to have the cooperation of the University … and to combine our efforts,” Meredith said. However, after the Wednesday meeting Animal Assistance members, including Meredith and Leslie Abrahams, were not satisfied with the policy laid out by Stephens.
“We were very disappointed. It’s a very extremely inhumane policy,” Meredith said, stating that to her knowledge there are only about 80 feral cats remaining on campus.
According to Meredith, Stephens requested that effective immediately all shelters must be taken down and any feeding stations located in the middle of campus must be relocated to the outskirts, except for one by Brotman Hall.
“They are unattractive,” Beron said. “Some people feel they are inappropriate.” Beron and Stephens agreed that not everyone on campus enjoys the presence of certain feeding stations, since complaints have been issued in the past regarding the feeding stations, and therefore, the university must include everyone in their policy formation.
“If there are shelters we want them to be approved by the university first,” Stephens said. Meredith, however, doesn’t think relocating the cats will work because they are a territorial species.
“They are not going to stay wherever we move them … every cat has their little area that is theirs,” Meredith said. Meredith also stated that Stephens mandated that food should not only be taken away at night, and specified that for the next two weeks the food can only be out for six hours and then for two hours thereafter.
“We do want to make progress before school starts,” Beron said. However, according to both Beron and Stephens, specific time frames were not discussed in detail, emphasizing again that policies discussed at Wednesday’s meeting are tentative.
Meredith and Abrahams are planning another protest to get students involved because they are afraid the university is trying to finalize the policy before students are aware of the issue. “What the students say, the students opinion, is going to be very important,” Meredith said.
“The policy is inhumane and we are not going to agree to this policy at all.” The coyotes, on the other hand, have not been forgotten. Garcia reported that coyotes may be harboring on the empty 22-acre lot, using the flood control channel that cuts through the north end of the lot and then on through the middle of campus.
“All the sightings were not perceived as a threat since the coyote was fleeing from human interaction each time,” Garcia reported. The university as well as Fish and Game have now decided to leave the coyotes alone.
“At this time there is no plan to move forward with trapping of coyotes on campus,” Beron said. “There has been a drop-off in the number of sightings and no reports of coyotes acting aggressively toward humans on campus.”
Meredith suspects that the return of students come fall semester will keep the coyotes shy of campus.
Meredith also stated that the presence of coyotes in urban areas needs to be addressed by cities across Southern California, “Coyotes are being forced into a habitat that is not natural for them,” Meredith said. “Some kind of relocation program needs to be initiated by the cities.”
According to the Fish and Game website, between the late 1970s and December 2003, 89 coyote attacks against humans were reported in California, and about 79 percent occurred in the last decade, “indicating that the problem is increasing … ” Animal Assistance is continuing their efforts to establish themselves as the Beach Cats Association club at CSULB and hopes to do so this coming fall in order to open feral cat maintenance to students and the campus community as a whole.
They plan to fundraise within the club in order to fund the TNR program and to buy food. “There should be an apparent decline in the number of cats here,” Beron said. Another meeting is planned in about two weeks, according to Beron and Stephens.