Wildcat Bill moves to County Council; prohibits feeding, abandonment

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LIHU’E — A cat-centric county bill that would strengthen enforcement of seabird protection mandates passed first reading before the county council on Wednesday.

New legislation would shorten detention times for microchipped felines at the Kaua’i Humane Society, ban cat abandonment islandwide, ban feeding cats on county property, and revamp county code definition ownership of cats for clarity.

“Kaua’i is the last refuge for a number of native birds, and cats have certainly had a devastating impact on all of those populations,” said council member Luke Evslin, who introduced the bill alongside of Vice Chairman Mason Chock. “It is also our legal responsibility…as part of Kaua’i’s Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan, to reduce cat populations on county property.”

The KSHCP is charting a course for the county to compensate for the incidental take of endangered species — which include Newell’s shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels — that can be disoriented and anchored by artificial lighting at night.

Since the county cannot eliminate its take entirely, it needs to focus on reducing the mortality rate of birds affected by the fallout, according to the county’s first assistant district attorney, Mahealani Krafft.

“They can’t resume flight, so they become prone to predation,” Krafft told the council.

As part of the habitat conservation plan, the county must reduce the presence of predators in its facilities, in part by banning the feeding of stray cats and dogs.

The KSHCP is not demanding the ban on cat abandonment proposed in Evslin and Chock’s bill. But the proposal is intended to make it easier for the county to meet other predator control obligations.

“If there are fewer predators to start with, there are fewer predators to eliminate,” Krafft said. “This will likely reduce predation and increase the likelihood of finding stranded seabirds.”

Enforcement would be carried out by park rangers, according to William Trujillo of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department (Director Pat Porter was absent from Wednesday’s council meeting due to emergency response work in Waimea).

Council members received 115 pages of written testimony before the bill was read. All but one expressed support for the legislation, which passed first reading and went to a public hearing on February 9.

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Scott yunker, journalist, can be reached at 245-0437 or [email protected]

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