Cougar-escaping kittens – free on Columbia Rd.

       Free kittens! But these aren't just any kittens. These hid out from cougars. The main volunteers in a Columbia Road neighborhood
effort to end cougar cat-slayings and a related feral cat
overpopulation problem hold the six kittens that came from
the feral colony and are now being offered for adoption.
From left are Renate Johnson, Deborah Janke, Jill Farmer
and Susan Bernstein. The problem started in mid-August when pet cats in the neighborhood were being found mauled and eaten.
Westside Pioneer photo
       A kind of war has been going on in the Columbia Road neighborhood, near the Garden of the Gods.
       It all started in mid-August with at least three cats being mauled and eaten. Cougars were identified as the culprits.
       Several of the residents fought back, not with weapons but with strategy. They figured out that the predators had been attracted by the neighborhood's large cat population. Many lived in a feral (wild) colony which was reproducing rapidly. Worse for the neighborhood, it was the residents' pet cats that were being caught, while the ferals were adept at hiding.
       “One cougar came into a living room and pounced on a cat,” recalled Deborah Janke, one of four neighborhood women who have banded together over the issue. “Luckily, it survived.” Other times, “it was pretty grisly. The cougars just left the heads.”
       The saga was particularly “intense from mid-August to mid-September,” said Janke, a former Coronado High teacher. “Every other day, cougars were running thru people's yards. We called Division of Wildlife six or seven times.”
       There was even fear for small children, because cougars have been known to attack them as well. “Parents were walking their children to the bus stop,” she said.
       Janke and Susan Bernstein, with help from neighbors Jill Farmer and Renate Johnson decided the solution was to do something about the ferals. Night after night in recent weeks, after determining where they liked to hang out, the women have been baiting traps with desirable food (salmon is a favorite). Once caught, an adult feral is taken to an area vet who either spays or neuter it. Then it is released back into the neighborhood. “Those cats have a right to live, but if they reproduce you have an unspeakable problem,” Janke said.
       The latest report is that nearly all the 13 adult ferals have been trapped.
       The project, which Janke describes as “a community effort, a Westside effort,” has not come cheap. “We've spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” she said. “We sent out a letter to the neighborhood, and people have made donations to help us.”
       Along the way, Janke has also been impressed by the help that's come in from various individuals, animal groups and businesses, offering know-how, ideas and equipment.
       The kittens were found three weeks ago in the feral colony. They were undernourished at the time, but are healthy now, Janke said. About 8 weeks old, they have varied coloring and length of hair. All have been checked out by vets and wormed, Janke said.
       The six kittens are free to anybody who wants one. But a $50 deposit is required - fully refundable when a new owner returns with proof the feline has been spayed or neutered. “We want to guarantee the feral problem is not continuing,” Janke explained.
       Free kittens! And no extra charge for the harrowing back-story. For more information, call Janke at 634-4439.

Westside Pioneer article