In recent years Silicon Valley has seen a tremendous population explosion thanks to the tech boom. And while that has, naturally, sent housing prices soaring, it’s recently had an unintended consequence that’s wreaking havoc on one small community… burrowing owls.
One of Google’s many offices is in Mountain View, California, an area just south of San Francisco. This massive expanse of land is adjacent to Shoreline Park, a 750-acre wildlife and recreation area. Some of the animals that call this area home are a number of rare burrowing owls.
Unfortunately, some well-intentioned google employees have encouraged feral cats to hang out in the same area. Sadly, the two species aren’t peacefully co-existing. Rather, the cats are hunting the owls for food.
The increased presence of feral cats in the area has concerned scientists for years, as they were unsure of where the cats were coming from. However, they’ve finally been able to trace their origins back to an employee group at Google–GCat Rescue.
The organization was formed with the hopes of finding homes for the many stray cats that were able to be relocated. The cats that were too feral to be placed were spayed or neutered, microchipped, and set free. But not without a safety net. In a system referred to as “colony care,” the cats are being fed dinner each night at designated feeding stations near the Google offices.
The hope was that GCat Rescue could mitigate what are commonly referred to as “nuisance behaviors,” such as fighting, hunting, and spraying. However, there’s a bit missing from the science behind that theory. It turns out, animals that are fed regularly still hunt–a fact that doesn’t bode well for the area’s biodiversity.
Last year, there were 318 cat sightings recorded near the park. Conversely, 2017 was the first time there were no sightings of fledgling owls recorded.
The theory is that while the loss of these rare birds is certainly devastating, the impact of the cats’ presence doesn’t begin and end with the owls.
Once the owls are gone, the cats will simply move on to a different animal.
L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.