CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) — Just in time for the piping plovers to fledge this fall, New York and American Bird Conservancy have resolved a 2016 federal lawsuit over what to do with a community of feral cats at Jones Beach.
Settlement papers filed over the weekend in the Eastern District of New York reveal that the state will remove 23 cats that have been counted at the beach to keep them from harming the coastal bird, which has been designated a threatened species.
All of the cats have already, according to the settlement, been vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and ear-tipped. Promising that the removal will be humane, the settlement notes that the cats will be placed in shelters “or other environments where they will not be subject to euthanasia.”
New York has also set up a temporary fence around a section of the state park called “Field 10,” where they will monitor any cats that they are unable to remove.
“We are delighted to reach this agreement,” American Bird Conservancy president Mike Parr said in a statement Wednesday. “By removing the cat colonies, New York State Parks has ensured a much safer environment for the plovers to help them nest successfully in the future.”
The settlement goes on to say that the state will place signs around the park prohibiting the feeding or care of the cats unless by a designated volunteer.
Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey voiced relief that the settlement is a boon to furred and feathered alike.
“We are pleased this agreement with American Bird Conservancy strikes a sensible balance between protecting the Piping Plover and relocating the feral cats that have been dropped off in the park in as humane a manner as possible,” Harvey said in a statement.
The group Alley Cat Allies has expressed concern meanwhile about the well-being of the cats.
“Relocating outdoor cats is not the easy fix some may expect,” Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies, said in a statement. “These cats are bonded to their outdoor home and moving will be highly traumatic for them.”
The cat-advocacy group has been involved in the two-year dispute, and hold to their argument that the cats have not had any impact on the piping plover population.
“The truth is that the population of piping plover in the park has grown markedly over the past 15 years,” Robinson continued. “There is no proof whatsoever that removing cats from Jones Beach State Park will help piping plovers in their recovery.”
Representatives for both animal groups and the state have not responded to emails seeking comment.