Fishing Cat CSI: A Chicken Who dunnit
The invader sneaks into the chicken coop in the stealth of night.
As hens snooze, occasional cooing sounds escape from scattered perches as they dream of pecking at the ground. Little do the birds suspect an outside presence until one disappears in a frenzy of feathers and panicked clucking.
Anyone who’s raised chickens can attest to the anxieties of keeping out would-be chicken snatchers. In the United States, blame often goes to the proverbial fox, with no shortage of other culprits like skunks, coyotes and bobcats. In Thailand, fingers and, sometimes clubs, point to fishing cats.
Despite the fact that they are rarely seen and globally endangered, fishing cats take much of the blame for ravaged livestock. The result being a club to the head to fishing cats assumed guilty. So are fishing cats the baddies here? Are locals right to consider them a pest?
To find out what’s killing the chickens, fishing cat researcher Namfon Cutter has set up camera-trap surveillance at preyed upon chicken coops. The plan is to catch the thieves in action. Some initial results have been surprising. Frequently, the animal of murderous intent has not been a fishing cat, but the traditional nemesis of cats everywhere, the dog.
These aren’t your typical pups of the Fido variety, but feral dogs. They’re said to hang out in ancient religious temples during the day, coming out in packs at night to roam the villages, pillage chicken coops and then some.
That’s not to say fishing cats are always blameless, but the creative study is helping to dispel some of the myth around what’s actually causing the chicken disappearances. Cutter is also working with villagers to bulk up chicken coop security, building better fences and encouraging villagers to contact her if there’s been a break in. So far 15 chicken coops in five villages have been rebuilt or reinforced, and Cutter has teamed up with vets who are helping to catch and neuter feral dogs and cats.
With a little luck, cooperation and some elbow grease, Thailand chickens and their owners may be able to rest a little easier.
Cutter can always use more supplies. If you’re interested in helping, or simply want to learn more about Cutter’s efforts to curb fishing cat killings, check out the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project site.