CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) — New York officials are facing backlash after following through on a pledge to rid Jones Beach of feral cats to protect a threatened coastal bird.
“This is a wronghearted, wrongheaded move that benefits no one and will inevitably cause more problems for the park,” Becky Robinson, president of the the group Alley Cat Allies, said in a statement Wednesday.
Reacting to a Tuesday announcement by the state that it had removed one colony of 26 cats, Robinson said more cats will inevitably move in now to “take advantage of the resources” in the park.
“In choosing to settle this lawsuit instead of a trial where it would have won, New York has set itself up for failure,” Robinson added.
The American Bird Conservancy brought the state to court over the cats in 2016, claiming that officials were not doing enough to protect piping plovers at the beach from predators.
Efforts to remove the cats have been underway since August when the state and bird group reached a settlement to avert trial.
New York promised at the time the cats would not be euthanized once removed, noting that they had already been vaccinated, ear-tipped, and spayed or neutered.
“Jones Beach State Park is simply not an appropriate place for stray or abandoned cats,” said Rose Harvey, States Park Commissioner, in a statement.
Grant Sizemore, director of the American Bird Conservancy’s invasive species programs, applauded Tuesday’s result.
“This is a very positive outcome that safeguards Piping Plovers and ensures a comfortable life for the cats,” Sizemore said in a statement. “The protected plovers that nest at Jones Beach State Park — and many other species — will have one less threat to contend with, and the cats have a safer place to live out their lives.”
The cat group has long denied that the bird group has any evidence to support that removing cats will help the piping plovers.
The State Parks are taking further action to protect the birds by fencing the birds nesting areas, monitoring and public outreach. Signs have gone up in the park that says feeding or abandoning cats in the park is prohibited.
Anyone who sees a cat or domestic animal being released in the park should contact authorities, state officials said.
Representatives from both animal groups and the state did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.