Friday, November 10, 2006

Jim Stevenson Legal Defense Fund

According to published reports, long-time Galveston area birder Jim Stevenson has been arrested for killing a feral cat that was about to attack some shorebirds, including Snowy and Piping Plovers. There are probably some details about this incident that have not yet been made public, so we don't want to jump to any conclusions, but basically anyone who kills a cat to save a Piping Plover is a hero in our book. We know a lot of people won't like that statement but this is a birding blog not a cat blog so tough cookies.

We're hoping to be able in some way to contribute to Jim's defense, but we want to wait a few days to see if a clearer picture of this incident develops.

For balance, here is Jim Stevenson's response:

Subject: what actually happenedFrom: Jim Stevenson Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 18:25:31 -0800---> Texbird help file <---

This will be cryptic in some areas because there is an open case that my
attorneys would appreciate me keeping my big mouth shut about. But maybe I can
get the point across if I am careful.

I can share a quick bird-related story.

Tuesday night about 9pm, as all states other than Virginia and Montana had been
decided, I hopped in my van, with no camera, binoculars or "anything," to drive
the San Luis Pass beach (as some of you know I like to do). I saw an
interesting thing.

There was a feral cat (miles from any house), out in the upland dunes, creeping
up on three Snowy and two Piping Plovers, and several Sanderlings. The animal
was obviously crippled (as also reported by the toll booth worker), but still
came fairly close to one of the Piping Plovers. I couldn't believe how tame and
approachable it was to the cat.

I finally got out and attempted to apprehend the cat with a towel from the back
on the van. It's never easy, and the closer I got (kinda chasing it), the more
wary it got. I finally gave up.

I saw this cat the next morning, as I did my weekly count of SLP birds. I will
say that the only two people within a mile or so of me were up on top of a
concrete bridge, out of sight (and vice versa), and inside the booth with
extremely thick (shall we say "bullet proof"?) glass.

There were other cats just laying around that I probably could have hit with a
ping pong ball, but this particular one began limping off, with levied ground
directly behind it. Photographing it perfectly would have been tough, with its
bouncing gait.

It is well documented that predators that are cripple often rely on the easiest
prey possible, such as wounded lions and tigers that have taken unfortunate
people. I believe this was the case here, and I was very concerned about how
many Endangered, Threatened and SSC individuals would succumb to it.

That was Wednesday morning, and life hasn't been terrific since.
I had about 35 posts from well-wishers, 47 phone calls, and two notes on my
door, when I got back after two difficult days. I really appreciate that (OK,
two were quite negative), as I did the many offers of help, but I agree that
this matter should cease on Texbirds. The offers of help are appreciated and
solicited, though.

I find the issue of respect for life as challenging as any. I say this as
someone who catches Cottonmouths on my property by hand and releases them
unharmed in wilderness areas, someone who replaced a shotgun with a camera
years ago, thus bringing on his dad's ire, and someone who just shed tears over
the passing of Ed Bradley. Maybe I'm just real tired.

The ethical dilemma is pitting the life on one cat against the dozens or
hundreds of small, wild animals it will kill in its (short) lifetime. And
piggybacked on that is the "real" cruelty of the death they normally receive,
from starvation to disease. Study after study reveals this. For me, it is
clear, though I am by no means immune to the emotional, while trying to hide in
pure logic, science and pragmatism.

BTW, apparently there are others with similar views (and actions) who've been
down at San Luis Pass.

I hope that clears up things as much as I dare.

Jim in Muggy Galveston


Anonymous said...

You know, BINAC, it probably wasn't the best idea to shoot a gun from a public bridge/hyway or to ram another vehicle.

Otherwise, shoot all the cats you want. I wish you would. And don't get me started on the idiots who feed wild cats.

But he made it hard on himself, didn't he?

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Well, that's why we have a need for some better information on this incident. We can only assume (and it is just an assumption) that firing a weapon in the manner Jim allegedly did is not illegal, or he would have been charged with something other than cruelty to animals.

And ramming the other vehicle...well, if someone who was not a police officer was chasing us in their pickup truck, we wouldn't react too politely, either.

But you're right, he did seem to make things hard on himself.

We will add the Texbirds link so people can get Jim's perspective on the matter, the news article did seem a bit biased.

Anonymous said...

"....concrete bridge, out of sight (and vice versa), and inside the booth with
extremely thick (shall we say "bullet proof"?) glass."

Sounds like he's thinking about plinking more than stray cats.

And what about all the Diamondbacks in the Dunes? What are they are consumming?

Piping Plovers?

Anonymous said...

I feel forced to comment a little more on this for our non-texan friends and especially for recent newcomers to the state.

If you see old timer Texans doing funny things, then you will just have to forgive them. And by old-timer I mean anybody who has been here a mere 20 years. Because, really, that is when Texas began to change for the worse. IMHO.

Till the 70's, we Texans could drink and drive, haul our kids in the back of pickups, and fire guns randomly but safely at random objects like hyway traffic signs without too much thought of retribution.

Of course, that had to change. Why leave a good thing alone, right? Yankees, Californicators and saftey ninnies started moving into the state. Oddly, many were conservatives who you would have thought would have embraced the freedom of the then Texas.

But hell no. Republicans promising less guv'ment as they passed more and more ridiculous laws were determined to keep us safe from our free living, fun lives.

To top it all off, a certain liberal animal rights, latte sipping, flannel wearing, volvo driving klan of sheer dolts and idiots also moved in.

Well the result, to make a long story short is that chaining a dog to the tree is now a worse offense in Texas than chaining a child to the same tree. I kid you not. It's true.

And worse, no one will care about the kid, but your house will be picketed and vandalised by these crazies for the next 6 months.

Really, Jim does not realize how bad the cat nutters are. I pity him.

Of course, at the same time, I say, "way to go Jim. Kill some more cats. Drink a beer, throw the empty out the window, and get that big buck on the side of the road for tonite's dinner."

I'm behind you a hundred percent. Way behind you! Just don't give my address to the cat nazies.

Anonymous said...

If you are able to think, you will see that this story by Jim makes no sense at all. Read carefully, and you will see that this is a desparate attempt to blame the victim. BTW, Jim is from Florida.

Anonymous said...

Great speech, Tex !!!
...So what happened after Reconstruction?

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

thinker, if you think Jim is blaming the cat, you need to go back to thinker school.

His story makes perfect sense if you realize that his attorney told him to omit the portion where he actually shot the cat.

Anonymous said...

...and don't say a word about the other nine either.

What a YoYo.

Anonymous said...

I have know JMS since he was in high school, and know that he grew up shooting crows and jays because they were "nest" predators. It's a religious thing. Dominion over the earth, etc. Not much more to say...


Anonymous said...

Translation: (for those of you in Rio Linda)

He doesn't have all his marbles.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Jim is from Florida.

Everyone in Texas is from somewhere else, you yankee dolt.

Anonymous said...

Were talking about wild free roaming cats! I like to give Jim a high five and buy him a beer for shooting a cat! I went to a junior college that was located out in the middle of farm country and the farm boys would go out hunting for cats for sport! A long long time ago while living in Florida I ran over a wild piggy and in the back of the truck bed I was getting screamed at by this woman "calling me a murderer" and other names for not slowing down and ect..

So after listening her go on and on about how she felt about me -- I slammed the truck in reverse and backed over the piggy again and then slammed the truck in drive and headed to our destination. I decided right then to take my ACDC tape and play "Hell Bells" and the woman never said a word after that.

Go Jimbo!


Anonymous said...

Jim Stevenson is clearly a legend in his own mind. He takes no responsibility for any of his actions, from shooting cats to driving like a maniac with 8 tour clients in his van (75 mph in a 55 zone in the rain, for starters). If he says that the cat was "creeping up in piping plovers and snowy plovers", it could mean that he once saw plovers at that location and was concerned that the cat might creep up on some in the future. He is not in touch with can only hope that, when released from his jail term, he will leave the Great State of Texas.

Anonymous said...

There are millions of feral cats wandering around willy nilly killing all our birds. Add those to house cats let out by irresponsible owners who are unaware of the huge impact these NON-NATIVE critters have on our environment. The post with reference to rattlesnakes summs up our collective ignorant view. Rattelrs are a natural predator, domesticated cats aren't. Although I am not going to applaud Mr Stevenson for what he did, I'm sure the cat and the birds are better off for what he did.
I agree with the comment regarding chaining animals. If folk are more concerned about animals rights than our kids then why are we tolerating cruelty to birds? Domestic cats are having a devastating effect on bird populations and we are doing diddly about it.

Anonymous said...

Your readers might care to read the follow-up in the local paper, the Houston Chronicle, on this incident:

You and your readers might also be interested to know that there are a large number of animal welfare organizations in the Houston/Galveston area, many of which work specifically with feral cat populations. These organizations offer live-trapping and removal of problem cats. Apparently, Mr. Stevenson never bothered to contact any of these organizations about the problem that he perceived. I think it is interesting, by the way, that he was protecting a "Piping Plover," not a House Sparrow, a Common Grackle, or a European Starling. Would you be setting up a legal defense fund for him if he were protecting one of these birds? Obviously, feral cats can be a problem for wildlife and we all want that wildlife protected, but there are humane ways to handle the problem of feral cats. Shooting the poor animal that has already been betrayed by human cruelty and leaving it to die on a beach is not the answer.

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Hi Dorothy:

Wow, what a great comment! We really appreciate that there can be a reasoned and articulate dialogue on this issue. We don't really know a lot about feral cat colonies, so we'd love it if you could educate us a bit on the subject.

Those organizations that you mention..when they spay and neuter cats, do they sometimes release them back into the "wild"?

Have you personally ever released a spayed and neutered stray cat? Can you give us the names of some organizations in the Galveston area that do this in a kind and humane manner?

Will you agree that some of these "released" cats could still kill a few birds, such as Piping, Wilson's, and Snowy Plovers?

We think it's important for our readers to be informed on *all* sides of an issue--so thank you for your great contribution to the debate!

Anonymous said...

Dorothy, there is a huge difference between Starlings and House Sparrows when compared to Piping Plovers. Much like the feral cat, Starlings and House Sparrows are introduced to North America and kill native songbirds, there have been large declines of many species of birds because of those bird species.

Many people would not care if a feral cat were going after those species. Just ask a person who runs a Bluebird Trail or is a Purple Martin Landlord. Quite a few of them readily kill House Sparrows, Starlings, House Wrens or any bird or animal that would threaten their nesting birds.

Anonymous said...

My point is that we apparently place different values on different lives in nature. I'm sure that the life of the House Sparrow is just as precious to it as is the Piping Plover's to it, but humans weight these lives differently. I don't believe this is really philosophically defensible in the greater scheme of things. As a birder who also cherishes cats and all life, I do perhaps have a unique perspective on this issue. Yes, my family has often taken in abandoned cats over the years. I've never spayed/neutered and released them - we spayed/neutered and kept them, or if that wasn't possible, we took them to the Humane Shelter. There are some organizations, of course, that do spay/neuter and release, feed and care for the animals in the wild. Others capture the animals, find foster homes and try to find permanent homes for them. We have both types of organizations here. There's no indication in any of the stories of this incident that I have read or heard - and the local media has covered it pretty extensively - that the gentleman ever attempted to get help from any of these organizations to remove the cat or cats that he deemed a threat to the plovers. He seems to have gone straight for his gun, and I certainly don't want to malign him but, based on his record, he seems more than a little trigger-happy. Birding is not a crime, but shooting cats is, as Mr. Stevenson may discover. Again, we all want wildlife protected, especially the birds that we love, but I would urge you and all your readers to consider and support humane solutions to the problem of feral cats. A .22 rifle is not the answer.

John said...

...Actually a .22 should be just about right. Not sure why shooting an animal is considered cruel if it's a clean shot. Cruel would releasing a homeless cat to fend for itself. Cruel and irresponsible. Cruel would be the way a feral cat plays with a songbird before ripping its head off. Cats kill a lot of birds, but the birds aren't as cute and cuddly. Precious cats.

Anonymous said...

Well, I pretty well rest my case. Now you see the reason for my Texas rant above. The Dorothy- types have moved into the state and you can't even shoot a f**king stray cat.

What next? Will we have to start feeding all those damn frozen embryos. Hey, I know, lets make bait worms safe from fish and fishermen. I saw that in a recent PETA brochure.

And then we have Mr. Stevenson. My god, what was he thinking? You shoot-and-shovel stray cats at night. Preferably not from a public road and not in broad daylight. The cat nazies are everywhere and have friends in high places.


Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Wow Dorothy, that's some great information for us to consider.

I wonder, though, if you could answer one question you missed...these organizations that re-release cats after they have been spayed and these organizations realize that these cats will still kills birds like Snowy Plovers, Wilson's Plovers, and Piping Plovers?


Anonymous said...

I'm a Californian who would like to know where to contribute to his defense. It's discouraging how stupid people are about protecting natural species. Cats should not be running around on the loose.

A Sympathetic Californian

Anonymous said...

Keep us up to date on a legal defense fund for Jim. It should not be any less legal to kill loose cats than it is to kill rats, or destroy invasive, non-native vegetation. BTW, a 1000fps pellet gun can do the job without the noise of a .22.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm not from Texas. But I've done some cat hunting in Louisiana - the effective kind. For those of you who willfully reject the laws of biology and ecology when dealing with feral cats I hope that you will take a moment to read the letter I sent to Jim. I realize that Galveston is not New Orleans. But as long as cats are allowed on the island you will have to deal with those cats waiting to take their spot on the dunes.

I read about your situation in the newspaper today and was saddened to see the issue become such a dividing issue in Galveston. I appreciate your work to help the native birds that live in the area and migrate through. More than 6 years ago I too became determined to do something and started a campaign to control feral cats in New Orleans. But I did my research. For years the university where I studied had been rounding up and exterminating feral cats. Within a few months the area where the eradication had taken place would be swarming with sick and malnourished nuisance cats. If you have studied biology you already know why. The dumpsters, roaches and squirrels so readily available to the cats made the area a perfect, and vacant, niche. Cats living in the surrounding area moved in and and began to reproduce like crazy.

Removing the cats didn't work, so what could be done? If you really want to control the cats you have to manage their population. Killing an individual cat, or even most of the cats, has no effect because the other cats are reproducing year round and there is still food and shelter available. For us trapping and neutering the cats and adopting out suitable cats worked. We partnered with a local vet who gave us reduced cost services and within a year and a half the population of over 350 fell by more than 75%. Within 3 years the population had fallen to 10% of it's previous size and began to lose battles to keep other cats out. We neutered them, too. We fed these animals to keep them from being a nuisance and to make trapping easier, which we did every Monday. Yes, we still had birds picked off from time to time, especially during the fall migration. But we knew that there was nothing better that we could do. There were over 2 million feral cats in New Orleans at the time. Eliminating our colonies would open it up the area for others to move in. So while we trapped cats on campus we spread the word in the area to keep your cats inside and spay and neuter your cats. I think that the information we gave them on reduced cat mortality, disease, and bird mortality influenced a lot of people to become responsible pet owners.

I know that you want a more immediate solution, but as long as there are more cats out there your method is no solution. Just wasted effort and ammo. Feeding and releasing cats, especially without neutering them, is irresponsible at best. But your solution is an emotional response and it is bound to be divisive in the end. If you're actually hoping to help birds survive ferals take a rational experimental approach to the issue. You may actually get somewhere and end up uniting people. Set a good example and reach out to people to inform them. You catch more flies with honey.

And speaking of setting a good example, I hope that the "large windows" on your house are somehow treated to prevent bird collisions. Large windows are just as much a death trap for birds as setting up a feeder in a cat infested yard. And climate change induced by large vehicles (including your van) is perhaps doing as much harm as feral cats. Not to mention that your house took away critical littoral habitat in the Galveston Bay area. We're all hypocrites. But if you're going to claim you did this to "help the birds" first take a critical look at what you can change without causing an uproar and giving birders bad press.

Thomas Anthony said...

Mr. Stevenson is getting a bad rap. The only crime committed here is by the local government for not eradicating the feral cats, and not arresting the idiot that feeds them. What a bunch of hypocrits. How many unwanted pets are "euthanized" in this country. How many eradication programs of feral and non-native species to protect native species occur? (answer LOTS!). This is just incredible. I read about this incident in the Anchorage Daily News. In the same edition was an article on the comeback of rock ptarmigan in the Aleution Islands, thanks to a non-native fox eradication program.

Anonymous said...

Thomas, your response is typical of someone who dispairs at the lose of biological diversity from introduced plants and animals. But it's evident that you have never tried to manage any of these flora or fauna. I do on a nearly daily basis - both the plants and animals. I applaud the eradication of foxes on the Aleutian Island you reference. But Galveston is full of people and their pets. "Eradicating" the cats (it is very tough to get them all) has proven time and again to be a waste of taxpayer money and a huge frustration. Anyone who works in invasion ecology or restoration ecology knows that this is a frustrating field. But our biggest obstacle is letting the managers and decision makers take action based on gut emotions, loves, and hates. It's rarely well thought out and often rejects the laws of ecology. Looking around and realizing the enormous foothold that invasives have in our world is devestating. I don't recommend doing it because you won't want to get out of the bed in the morning. But understand that taking shots at cats is neither effective nor desirable. Don't you realize that there are a lot of people who would otherwise be receptive to us who now see birders as pet killers. Extreme, yes, but that's how the world tends to be split on emotional issues.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we remove the real invasive species from Galveston Island? The Homo sapiens sapiens. Does anyone think for a moment that cats are having more negative impacts on birds than human development? Time and again the literature doesn't support it. But the little blood-thirsty predators that we have introduced make a convenient scapegoat. We're shameful for our willfull blindness.

Bird Advocate said...

Trap, neuter, release programs produce a healthier, more efficient killing machine. All they are doing is enabling the cats in their destruction.
TNR enthusiasts claim if you remove one cat another moves in. Okay, no problem, I remove that one, too. Euthanasia of the millions of feral cats now killing billions of native animals each year is the only effective answer.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone elso noticed how all aspects of Jim Stevenson's story are conveniently supportive of his defense? The cat was crippled, therefore deserving a quick death. It was hunting piping plovers. These birds are hard to find on a good day; it just happened that the lame cat was closing in on this particular bird when Jim was "alleged" to have shot it.
Concerning Jim's "love of birds"....I was on an Alaska trip with him when I noticed the rifle wrapped in a jacket in the back of his van. He smilingly admitted that he had smuggled it through Canada and that he carried it to shoot birds. He told me that, if he found a bird that was far out of its range (guaranteeing glory if he proved he saw it) he would shoot the bird to prove that he had seen it. Oh, yeah, would be for "scientific" purposes. Make up your own mind about this, but, as a birder, I do not want this man representing me in any way. He is a loose cannon who can only hurt public perception of birding and birders.

Anonymous said...

I have also heard that he shoots rare birds. The guy is mad by all accounts and from what I have heard should be sent to a lunatic asylum.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Hitler claimed the Jews were lame?

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

That's a really good anology, Anonymous, because Jim Stevenson shooting a cat with a .22 is exactly the same as Hitler killing millions of people. Maybe we should give him the Czech Republic or something.

We now have a new nickname for this commenter:


Anonymous said...

Wanna bet that "Birding is NOT a crime!!!!" is actually Stevenson? Probably not. No on would want to hand over their money so easely.