Cute, cuddly and lethal: Counting the ‘mini-lions’ that are killing millions of birds

Thirty-four cameras and counting have been set-up in industrial, commercial and residential areas of Vancouver, as researchers try to discover how many cats wander the city’s streets, and how many are sizing-up unsuspecting birds.

An estimated 100 million to 350 million birds are killed every year by domestic and feral cats.

“Birds are the main focus of this study,” said researcher Jaylen Bastos. “The numbers are just so alarming.”

“It’s happening everywhere we’ve brought in these little mini-lions, these little furry critters that we call cats and we love,” he added.

Seven weeks into the study, Vancouver Cat Count cameras have collected millions of photos, and the team figures between 50,000 and 100,000 cats roam the city’s streets and alleys.

Now, they’re hoping to discover feline population hotspots, which will, in turn, help guide policies to protect birds and possibly the cats themselves.

The trail cameras, which take 5 photos when a sensor detects movement, also snap images of animals that are dangerous to cats, like raccoons.

“There’s a great risk of predation by our urban predators like our coyotes,” said Bastos. “There’s also a great risk of disease transfer, or parasites.”

The study is far from over. Those 34 cameras are moved every three weeks.

Once the data is crunched, the team will pass on its findings to other cities. The Vancouver Park Board will also review the results and may suggest bylaws for cats. 

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