Skunks prompt city to post signs about feeding cats
Programs are popping up around the country to save the lives of feral cats by placing them with businesses and individuals for rodent control. Video by Diana Kruzman/USA TODAY
FARMINGTON — Small colonies of feral cats have lived for many years within the thick undergrowth and tall reeds in Berg Park.
Over the years, many people have brought kibble to the park for the cats to eat, despite signs asking them not to feed the felines. Newly designed signs were hung around Berg Park on Aug. 31 to explain why people should not feed the cats.
The new signs inform people that it is illegal to feed wildlife, and that the feeding of feral cats has created problems with skunks and raccoons.
Christa Chapman, a spokeswoman for Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said feeding animals in a way that creates a nuisance population, like the skunks and raccoons near the trails, is illegal. She said the skunks and raccoons near the Animas River trails system have created a health hazard for people using the trails.
"Feeding the cats is a nice gesture," Chapman said. "But it causes problems for other trail users."
Donna Thatcher, the education coordinator for the Riverside Nature Center in Animas Park on the other side of the river, walks the trails system with various groups on a regular basis. She said there has not been an increase in the number of skunks and raccoons, but the food is attracting the wild animals to the trails.
"They all know where there's food, and they go there and eat," she said.
She said the skunks and raccoons are used to people walking by, and they generally stay in the brush away from the trail. However, when people put food out for feral cats near the trail, it attracts the wild omnivores. She said the food increases the chance that a person or a dog will be sprayed by a skunk.
"Nobody wants to drive home with a skunked dog in their car," she said.
Thatcher said the best thing park visitors can do if they are concerned about feral cats is to adopt a cat from the animal shelter. She said the shelter cats are already spayed or neutered and will not contribute to overpopulation.
Chapman said the feral cats will survive without the handouts of cat food.
"Cats are resilient animals, and they are hunters," Chapman said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.