FWS Bio Op KLwoodrat-cotton mouse-cats
This is the August 27, 2011 Biological Opinion (BO) by the USFWS to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection regarding a Restoration project to benefit the endangered Key Largo woodrat and Key Largo cotton mouse in Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park in Monroe County Florida. (map - pan out!) The BO repeats and references the questionable info in documents, that I’ve compiled for years and shared with leading cat advocates nationwide, regarding endangered species and feral or free roaming cats in the Florida Keys.
There are numerous related documents for each endangered species and park. Dagny Johnson State Park is located between Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Crocodile Lake NWR issues were later incorporated into the 2011 Florida Keys Refuges Integrated Predator Plan.
The BO summarizes continued efforts over previous years to determine numbers of endangered species populations including live trapping and outlines future trapping after restoration.
Following are excerpts from the 2011 FWS BO regarding cats (always read entire!)
. . . in February 2010. Specifically, 14 captive-bred KLWRs were released into their native habitat at CLNWR. The survival rate of these animals has been low. By July 2010, only one of these animals was known to be alive. Many of; the introduced KLWRs were believed to be killed by feral cats (C. Alligood, personal communication),
On cat threats to the Key Largo Woodrat, followed later by a similar paragraph regarding the Key Largo Cotton Mouse:
The presence of exotic animal species on Key Largo also may represent a threat to the KLWR. Feral and free-roaming domestic cats (Fe/is catus) are known to occur within the CLNWR and the Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site. Densities of domestic cats appear to be greater near the residential areas of North Key Largo such as the Ocean Reef, Garden Cove, and the Ocean Shores developments. Cats are known to prey upon a variety of wildlife species, and studies indicate that small mammals often compose a large propor ion of the diet (Churcher and Lawton 1989). As indicated above, cats are implicated in the death of introduced KLWRs. Moreover, domestic cats may hunt even when fed daily by humans (Liberg 1985). In addition to direct mortality, predators may also have indirect effects on prey species. The risk of predation may alter the behavior of prey species resulting in reduced growth rates and reproductive output (Arthur et al. 2004). Consequently, it is likely feral and free-roaming domestic cats are affecting the KLWR population, but in the absence of specific studies their effects are difficult to quantify. The Service is attempting to address the problem of cats on North Key Largo and contracted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in 2005 to remove the cats from the CLNWR. However, because humans continue to release cats in this area, ongoing efforts to remove cats will be necessary.and finally,
In accordance with the Interagency Cooperation Regulation (50 CFR 402),
these terms and conditions must be complied with to implement the reasonable and prudent measures:
3a. Control feral and free-ranging domestic cats on the project sites in perpetuity, and educate the public about the harm to the KLWR, KLCM, and other native wildlife species that results when domestic cats are allowed to roam freely or are released into the wild.