Corvallis Science & Nature: The Environmental Cost of Outdoor Cats

The signs of spring keep coming. This weekend in Corvallis, we’re looking at temperatures approaching 70. Linn County birders saw our first least sandpipers and barn swallows of the year, two more early-spring migrants arriving right on time. And of course, this past week we sprung forward an hour with the start of daylight saving time. So enjoy those later sunsets, as well as a full schedule of environmental and science themed events this week. But first, an important note from one of our most respected local wildlife charities.  

Chintimini Staff Warns About Dangers of Outdoor Cats 

These days, there are all sorts of threats facing our local wildlife. Birds strike windows, fish are caught behind dams, and all sorts of sizes of animals are hit by cars. One source of wildlife mortality in our own backyards is easily preventable, though: predation by pet cats. Our beloved feline companions are also expert hunters, killing billions of birds and small mammals every year in North America alone. A 2023 study in the journal Nature Communications found that cats hunt and kill members of over 2,000 species around the world. Here in the Willamette Valley, like everywhere else cats are allowed to roam, it’s a problem with an easy solution.  

This week, staff at Chintimini Wildlife Center published a post on Facebook that turned out to be one of their most controversial in recent memory. The post shows an American Robin brought into the center with puncture wounds that suggest it had been injured, but not killed, by a local cat. As always, when the topic comes up, strong opinions bubbled up on both sides, from cat owners insisting they had the right to keep their cats outside, and from wildlife advocates citing the damage they do there. The center staff ended their message with a plea for local pet owners, especially now, when birds are starting to nest and breed in our region: “As baby season approaches, consider moving your cats inside for both their health and the health of your local ecosystem!”  

Thursday: Marys Peak Webinar 

Marys Peak is the tallest mountain in the coast range, and one of our most unique local ecosystems for its wildflowers and alpine meadows. But how much do you really know about this local treasure? What species call it home? How has it been changed by hundreds of years of development? And who was Mary, anyway?  

This Thursday, March 14, the Marys Peak Alliance, along with the Sierra Club and Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, present a free webinar on the ecological and cultural history of Marys Peak. Presenters include interpretive guides Phil Hays and Judy Juntunen, along with U.S. Forest Service tribal liaison Kevin Bruce. The program runs from 7 to 8:30 pm. Click here to register.  

Friday: Environmental Ethics Panel 

Scientists, policy makers and others are still arguing over the exact definition of the Anthropocene, the recent period of Earth’s history affected most dramatically by human beings. But however we end up defining it, there is no doubt that we live in a world profoundly impacted by us and our industries. That leaves us, both individually and collectively, with new and important ethical questions to consider. This Friday, a panel of ethicists and authors will discuss these issues in a discussion titled “Adapting Environmental Ethics for the Anthropocene”. The panel includes journalist and author Emma Marris, OSU philosophy professor Allen Thompson and Princeton University environmental justice expert Arthur Obst.   

The panel starts at 3 pm on Friday, March 15, at Milam Hall on OSU’s campus. Click here for more details.  

Tuesday: Lupine Planting for Butterflies 

As spring approaches, insects and other invertebrates will soon be hatching and seeking out the native Willamette Valley plants and flowers that they depend on for survival. Next Tuesday, the Greenbelt Land Trust is looking for volunteers to help them plant Kincaid’s lupine, a threatened native wildflower and an important host plant for Fender’s Blue butterflies. You can get your hands in the dirt and help preserve these two threatened species, plus all the other wildlife that can benefit from a more intact native meadow ecosystem.  

The work party runs from 10 am to 2 pm on Tuesday, March 19, at Bald Hill Farm in Corvallis. Registration is required, and there is a limit on participants, so register early. Click here for more information.  

Wednesday: Integrated Pest Management Webinar 

Not all insects are as beneficial or in need of our help as Fender’s Blue butterflies. Gardeners know well how invasive and destructive pests can ravage a crop, as well as damage native plant species. Next Wednesday, OSU Extension Master Gardeners present a webinar on integrated pest management (IPM), the science-based approach to managing pests while protecting the local environment and human health. Speakers Cheryl Borden and Jane Collier will go over the five components of a successful IPM program, from identifying and observing which pest species are present to designing and implementing a measured response.  

The webinar runs from noon to 1 pm on Wednesday, March 20. Even if you can’t attend live, click here to register, and the organizers will email you a link to a recording a few days after the event.  

By Ian Rose 

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