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Hassett, DNR back away from 62


If you e-mail the DNR, this is a copy of what you can expect to recieve as a response:

To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for your communication concerning the advisory question to classify feral cats as an unprotected species. We have received many e-mails and realize this is an issue of great public interest. It's important for you to know that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is not actively involved in a public examination of the status of feral cats [the free roaming, wild version of domesticated cats] in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin DNR Secretary Scott Hassett notes, "Public debate and examination of conservation issues is always a good thing. That said, I want to make perfectly clear that this question advises the Conservation Congress. DNR did not raise this question and is not promoting it."

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a citizen advisory group (read: hunters' lobby) created by the Legislature, is expected to ask the public whether feral cats should be designated an unprotected wild species as part of an annual advisory questionnaire at statewide hearings on April 11. Unfortunately, some people who have read the list of conservation questions for the April hearings have incorrectly identified the question on feral cats as a DNR-initiated move to authorize shooting cats.

The Conservation Congress is a separate body from the DNR, created to give citizens (read: hunters) an avenue for input and discussion on conservation issues.

Domestic animals such as cats and dogs are regulated primarily by municipalities through local ordinances. Wisconsin's state legislature would have to amend state laws before a change in the status of feral cats would be possible. It is this department's understanding that the Conservation Congress is asking this question to gauge public sentiment on this issue. Public support or non-support of this question is tallied at the April 11 Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearing -- held in all Wisconsin counties at 7 p.m. -- and is advisory only - it is not binding. (read: go away, there's nothing to see here).

Feral cats are known to hunt songbirds and inevitably have an impact on Wisconsin's natural landscape, but scientists do not yet agree on the best course of action to deal with that impact.

Wisconsin DNR is concerned about the impact free-roaming domestic cats have on the natural landscape, but is not convinced that the proposal before the Conservation Congress is an effective means of dealing with those impacts and is concerned that the proposal would create the potential for significant conflicts and problems.

DNR does urge people to take the following steps to minimize the harm domestic cats cause to birds and other wildlife:

Keep your cat indoors. Many cats live happily inside.
If you take them outside use a leash.
If you let them roam outside, you could be contributing to destruction of native species.
If you need an outside cat for vermin control, have them neutered.
Report feral cats to local animal control officers
If you have unwanted cats, take them to an animal shelter that accepts them.

The Executive Committee of the Conservation Congress has asked DNR to share this message with people inquiring about the feral cat advisory question:

The Conservation Congress is an advisory body to the Natural Resources Board, and is comprised of citizens like you. There are 5 delegates from each of the 72 counties throughout Wisconsin.

All Conservation Congress Advisory questions are listed on the Spring Hearing Questionnaire. The Spring Hearings are a tool used to gain citizen input (read: hunter input) regarding those questions. All Conservation Congress Advisory questions are just that, advisory questions. The results of the Spring Hearings are forwarded to the Natural Resources Board and Department of Natural Resources for further consideration following the statewide recommendations from the Conservation Congress at its annual meeting.

Citizens who have concerns regarding this question or other questions on the Spring Hearing Questionnaire are encouraged to attend the Spring Hearings on April 11, 2005 at 7:00 PM located throughout all 72 counties in Wisconsin. A listing of those hearings can be found here.

Individuals attending a Spring Hearing can vote on each question on the questionnaire, and may voice additional concerns regarding natural resource issues of statewide significance in a written resolution. Those written resolutions are also voted upon at the Spring Hearing. Written resolutions that receive a favorable vote at the Spring Hearings are then forwarded to the Rules & Resolutions committee of the Conservation Congress. At the Conservation Congress annual convention in May, resolutions are assigned to a study committee for further consideration. Written resolutions are given the same weight regardless of how many counties have forwarded each resolution.

To view questions that are will be voted on by the public on April 11th or to learn how to submit your own written resolution please go here.

We hope this answers your questions regarding this issue. Thanks once again for your interest.


AnnMarie Kutzke
Bureau of Legal Services
Wisconsin Conservation Congress
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 7921
101 South Webster Street
Madison, WI 53707-7921
phone: (608) 266-2952
fax: (608) 266-6983