By Anna Skurikhina (Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Stewardship Centre for BC) and Caroline Biel (Bird Conservation Engagement and Communications Officer, BC, Birds Canada)
Many North American bird populations are rapidly declining. Since 1970, North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds. By now, you have probably heard that the risk of being killed by a cat is one of the most significant threats to birds that people can directly influence. Because so many domestic cats are allowed to roam outside, they kill about 100 – 350 million birds every year in Canada alone! What is being done to change this sobering statistic?
One example started two years ago when the Stewardship Centre for BC (SCBC) and Birds Canada co-hosted a Stewardship Roundtable at the 2018 International Ornithological Congress. The Roundtable brought together policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, park managers, First Nations, researchers, and bird enthusiasts to discuss best practices for advancing bird conservation in the 21st century – including how to develop stewardship practices that improve the wellbeing of both cats and birds.
Born of this collaborative work was the Bird Stewardship Action Plan – a document full of resources and concrete ways to support bird conservation. Today, the Stewardship Centre for BC (SCBC), with the support of Birds Canada, is leading the way to make the action plan a reality for cats and birds.
- Providing support and resources to pet owners, veterinarians, and local governments
So what is being done to help cats and birds? One way SCBC is helping cats and birds is by supporting responsible pet ownership. Cats are at risk when they go outdoors unsupervised. By improving our treatment of cats we, by extension, are also limiting their impact on birds. SCBC provides free resources for the public, veterinarians, and local governments to help reduce the impacts of outdoor cats on birds, while ensuring a healthy and happy lifestyle for cats. You can access all guides and brochures on SCBC’s website for free download – they include:
- Happy Cat Brochure: Tips for Responsible Pet Ownership
- Stewardship Practices for Reducing the Impact of Cats on Birds and Wildlife
- And more!
- Doing research and informing city policies
To make good conservation decisions, we need up-to-date estimates of urban bird and cat populations. This year, SCBC initiated two research projects in the Greater Vancouver area to collect local information about outdoor cats and birds: the Vancouver Cat Count and Greater Vancouver Urban Landbird Count, of which Birds Canada is a proud supporter. These research findings will be important for shaping the Vancouver Bird Strategy and informing city policies for keeping cats and birds safe in BC.
- Sharing Happy Cat Stories
SCBC’s Happy Cat stories project was launched in summer 2020 to celebrate BC’s responsible cat owners. Happy Cat Stories is a photo gallery featuring ways cat owners supervise their cats outside, stimulate their companions indoors, and use outdoor enclosures (catios) to make sure their cats have safe access to fresh air and exercise. If you are a cat owner, SCBC encourages you to take part in the Happy Cat Stories survey to share your ways of keeping cats happy and safe while keeping birds protected from cat predation.
- Engaging with the Public
As a part of this year’s Vancouver Bird Week, SCBC held a virtual panel discussion to talk about how to make British Columbia a safer place for birds and cats! Visit https://stewardshipcentrebc.ca/birds-and-cats-innovative-solutions-for-finding-common-ground/ to watch the panel discussion!
- Working Together
Conservation requires collaboration. Birds Canada and SCBC contribute to the Greater Vancouver Cats and Birds Committee – a collaborative committee of conservation organizations, animal welfare organizations, and government – that is working to develop and implement a Cats and Birds Strategy, including a detailed outreach and education campaign, with the ultimate goal of encouraging safe and healthy homes for birds and cats in Vancouver and beyond.
Stewardship Centre for BC Contacts
In partnership with universities, local governments, professionals, and not-for-profit organizations, SCBC is developing peer-reviewed and science-based resources to support BC’s biodiversity and help make BC a safer place for cats and birds. SCBC’s Cats and Birds program is supported and funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada.