US Fish & Wildlife May Eliminate Non-native Species in Florida Keys

The US Fish & Wildlife Service is floating a plan to start eliminating all non-native species from its national wildlife refuges in the Florida Keys, including feral cats. Predictably, some people are upset about that.

From this story in the

_Over the past century, as developers of the Florida Keys gobbled up pristine real estate, the federal government created four refuges along the island chain to protect wildlife and preserve habitat. But at the safe havens for nature, not all creatures are welcome. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants to remove all non-native predators. On Monday, after several heated public meetings with animal advocates, the federal agency will unveil a 44-page draft plan on how it recommends it should do so. The compromise plan includes live trapping and some euthanization.

It's a real controversial thing -- some people believe every animal has a right to live,'' said Anne Morkill, manager of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex that encompasses the Key Deer, Key West, Great White Heron and Crocodile Lake preserves. _ _The refuges' unwanted are a hodgepodge of exotic and abandoned intruders: Virginia opossums, nine-banded armadillos, common boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, Gambian pouch rats, black rats, green iguanas, the Nile Monitor, black spinytail iguana, imported red fire ants, and especially free-roaming cats. Refuge biologists say these non-native predators are messing up the natural ecosystem and

posing a grave danger'' to the native species, which include 30 protected by the Endangered Species Act and some found nowhere else in the world.

"...Angry animal advocate groups protested, some wearing cat outfits while holding signs on U.S. 1. They included Forgotten Felines of the Florida Keys, Raccoon Rescue and Stand Up for Animals, then the county-contracted, no-kill animal shelter on Big Pine Key where the trapped cats were taken. Even Playboy founder Hugh Heffner got into the act. The marsh rabbit's Latin name, Sylivilagus palustris hefneri, was named for the mogul after he paid for its study decades earlier. Heffner donated $5,000 to Stand Up for Animals to help both his namesake bunnies and the stray cats. The refuge managers began putting together a formal plan. Four public meetings were held in 2008, using a much-needed professional mediator. Jerry Dykhuisen, vice president of Forgetten Felines, described the early meetings as

very heated.'' But he gave the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

kudos for making a genuine effort to get everyone together.'' There was common ground. Both sides admitted the problem was not created by the animals, but by humans. And both sides were committed to ``no homeless cats.''

_

Thoughts?