Free feral felines on offer

The Mae Bachur Animal Shelter is giving away cats. But only wild ones. In early March, the Whitehorse shelter ended up with 28 feral felines from Beaver Creek.

The Mae Bachur Animal Shelter is giving away cats.

But only wild ones.

In early March, the Whitehorse shelter ended up with 28 feral felines from Beaver Creek.

The original plan was to ship about 20 of them to Alberta where they had already been pre-adopted.

But after meeting the cats, this was no longer an option.

“When we went to collect the cats, we had no idea what we were getting into with how wild these cats were,” said Wes Wirth, the Yukon government’s Community Services operations and programs manager.

“So the door closed on these options.”

Humane Society Yukon president Shelley Cuthbert said they are definitely not pet cats.

“They are completely undomesticated,” she said.

The cats were being fed and watered by a Beaver Creek resident who was looking after roughly 50 of them.

But the cats weren’t easy to catch.

“It was a challenge because they were fairly wild,” said Wirth, whose animal control officer was involved in the roundup.

The cats were either live-trapped or lassoed with a “catch pole,” a long stick with a small noose that gently tightens around the snagged animal’s neck.

Once caught, the cats “were not happy about being put in cages,” added Wirth.

The shelter already had a full house without the additional wild cats, so Community Services split the cost of a heated trailer to house the felines.

It will remain at the Whitehorse shelter permanently as “a cat sanctuary,” said Cuthbert.

The Beaver Creek cats are also being spayed, neutered, wormed, vaccinated and microchipped.

In all, Community Services has spent $28,000 on the wild cats.

That works out to roughly $1,000 a cat, including half the trailer costs and about $9,000 in vet bills.

“But we were expecting to get 35 cats and we only got 28 so it might be a bit less,” said Wirth.

However, on Tuesday, the 28 cats turned into 32.

“We had a cat have four kittens this morning,” said Cuthbert. “It was a surprise.”

Of the original 28 cats, seven were also kittens.

But two of those kittens have died, said Cuthbert.

The mother was not caught when the cats were rounded up, and it’s always hard to raise kittens without their mom, she said. All those kittens will be up for adoption.

But the adult cats are only being offered to farmers or other people living in the country who are looking for mousers.

“These are outdoor cats,” said Cuthbert. “But they would still need shelter and kibble.”

The shelter is also considering sending the cats to Alberta farms.

“But first we have to see if they can handle the stress of transport,” she said. “They are accustomed to having free rein so we are monitoring their stress levels.”

Wild cats have been known, once freed, to return to their territory, even if it’s hundreds of kilometres away.

But spaying and neutering the cats and returning them to Beaver Creek to live out their days was not something Community Services originally considered, said Wirth.

Killing the cats was also not contemplated.

“We were led to believe the cats were somewhat domesticated,” he said. “So that thought didn’t cross our minds.”

Now Community Services is left with the difficult task of “how to approach the next phase,” he said.

These 28 Beaver Creek cats are only the tip of the iceberg.

The tiny Yukon community of roughly 113 has about 150 stray cats roaming its streets.

It is a potential health hazard, but more of a public nuisance, said Yukon chief medical officer of health Brendan Hanley in a past interview with the News.

With this overabundance of cats, people are coming across dead cats, as well as urine, feces and the accompanying stench, he said.

“Plus there are concerns the cats are attacking other pets and threatening the bird population.”

The cats are also being blamed for luring foxes and bears to the community.

Community Services and the humane society are planning to go back to Beaver Creek in April to round up more cats.

“Our intent is to do another trip and collect as many cats as we can,” said Wirth.

“We will try and adopt them out,” he added. “Killing them is a last resort.”

By the time the next batch of Beaver Creek cats arrive at the shelter, Cuthbert hopes to have most of the current ones in homes.

“But if not, we still have lots of space in the trailer,” she said.

Meanwhile, the shelter is “at critical mass again,” said Cuthbert.

There are 10 to 15 friendly, domesticated cats waiting for homes, and more than 20 dogs. There are also seven new puppies.

“We have a full house and are starting to double up in cages again,” she said.

The shelter also has a new cat that was discovered tied up in a garbage bag in a Whitehorse dumpster last week.

“Bylaw Services is investigating an animal cruelty case related to this cat,” said Cuthbert.

The dumpster cat seems to be doing well, she said. It’s friendly and cuddly and is up for adoption.

“We are asking anyone interested in adopting any animals to please come down.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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