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 CATS. BIRDS, AND YELLOWSTONE by Eddie Trapp

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For hundreds of years humans have had to deal with stray cats. Some are tamed and become pets. Others roam the streets, carrying disease and killing birds. Granted, they help by killing rats and mice, but the war between bird lovers and cat lovers continues. A house cat that is running wild is referred to as a feral cat. Anything that is supposed to be domesticated but reverts to the wild is considered feral. Nowhere does the war rage quite like in Galveston which is the first place migrating birds can land and rest after flying across the Gulf. Thousands of bird watchers visit Galveston Island, Bolivar Peninsula, and High Island each year, bringing tons of money to the economy. Most of them hate feral cats as well as tame cats that are allowed to roam free and kill birds. Many cats have learned to patiently wait by bird feeders until a bird gets close enough for the cat to jump.

Years ago someone had the bright idea of trapping feral cats, neutering them, and releasing. This has been tried in many large cities with poor results. Trapping, neutering, and releasing (TNR) has shown the best reduction up north where the everything gets frozen over but in the Houston\Galveston area TNR has shown some success but not enough to pay for all the trapping and neutering. Cats are hunters and will kill birds whether hungry or not.

Consider the research done in Hawaii. 75% of cat colonies shrunk to basically nothing within two years when cats were trapped and euthanized. With the TNR method, it took thirty years for the colony to disappear. In the South, 80% of a colony must be neutered before there is a significant decline. In Rome, after a ten year study there was only a 22% drop in cat population from the TNR program and it was deemed a waste of time, energy, and money. Cats have twice as many cases of rabies as dogs and rank third behind pit bulls and German shepherds in attacks on people. Maybe cat people and bird people will figure something out and be able to get along. Dropping dogs or cats either one off on the side of the road is sentencing them to a life of hardships.

From my ledger. In 1987 Jean, Greg, and I went to Yellowstone on vacation. Our other three kids had other things to do and stayed home. We left about 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 25 and were in Vernon by midnight. Friday, June 26, 1987. Start of our first full day. 12:20 a.m. Scorpio was really pretty out the left window. A clear, dark night. Listening to WWL New Orleans, 870 on the radio. Passed through Chillicothe at 12:30.  Gasoline in Quanah is .99 a gallon. Childress at 1:30 and Estelline at 1:45. On through Memphis, Clarendon, and stopped at rest area forty miles from Amarillo.

Left rest area at 6:15 this morning. In Amarillo at 7:00 eating breakfast. On through Dumas and Texline. Left boring interstate at Walsenburg, Colorado and traveling on Hwy 69 at 3:30 p.m. The road travels beside a pretty river a long ways. Sangre de Cristo Mountains off to our left. Highway 50 at Texas Creek. West through Salida and Pagosa Springs. North to Buena Vista, Granite, and Twin Lakes where lots of nice houses overlook the lake. Very narrow road over Independence Pass. Night in campground just east of Aspen. Black headed grosbeaks walking around. Steak and pork chops for supper.

Day 2. June 27, 1987. Saturday. Breakfast in Glenwood Springs. Near Meeker there are gobs of little critters run over on the highway. May be chipmunks. Magpies are eating them. Pronghorns near Craig. Stopped in Wamsutter, Wyoming. Golden eagle. A mama mule deer jumped a fence and her twins couldn’t get through. One turned and ran way off. At 6:20 we saw a sign, 216 miles to Yellowstone. Rock Spring at 6:25. Into Jackson, Wyoming a little after dark. Found a campground for the night. All around the area you see the name, Hoback, a trapper and guide who brought the first white people to the area in 1811. Hobeck stayed two years and Indians stole all his gear, almost causing his starvation. In 1813 he was killed by Indians. There is a Hoback River near the famous Snake River.

Day 3. June 28, 1987. An osprey flew over as we walked across the McDonalds parking lot in Jackson, Wyoming before driving toward the Tetons. Traveling north near Jenny Lake we were all looking left at the magnificent Teton Mountains when several elk ran from the right, almost on our hood. I swerved and braked, barely missing the first elk. Calves were in the rear with their tongues hanging out from running a long ways apparently. At the Snake River Jean just had to pick up a few smooth, round rocks to place on a shelf at home. Got a cabin for the night in the Canyon area.

Day 4. June 29, 1987. After breakfast to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone then toward Old Faithful. From the Canyon area north to the Towers. While talking to other tourists we heard the familiar story about bears. You should have been here yesterday. A mama grizzly had killed a young elk recently. She and her cubs had been hanging around feeding on it. Park officials trapped her and the cubs for relocation to a more remote place.  To be continued.

More corny alligator jokes: What do alligators call little kids? Appetizers. What do you call an alligator that bites you on your rear end? A tail gator. What do you call an alligator that starts arguments? An instigator.

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