Feral Cat Feeding Prohibition Policy

Due to potential predation of the endangered clapper rail and other wildlife at the RFS by feral cats and other predators that are attracted to cat food left out for feral cats (racoons and skunks), the University prohibits by policy feeding of feral cats and other wildlife at the RFS.

University of California, Berkeley, Richmond Field Station

Ridgway's Rail Conservation Program

Prohibition on Feeding Free-Roaming Cats (September 2018)

The University of California, Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station (RFS) is home to a rare local species known as the Ridgway’s rail (Rallus obsoletus).1 This once abundant bird, which is henlike in appearance, lives in tidal salt marshes and has suffered from hunting, habitat loss, and predation from free-roaming (feral) cats, rats, and other predators. Only around 1,000 individual birds remain and they are now protected by the federal and state Endangered Species Acts.

Since 1999, the University has investigated and worked to remediate a large area of legacy industrial wastes deposited by prior shoreline property owners into Stege Marsh, the home of the Ridgway’s rail. As part of the process we have consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to design a wetland program that will increase and enhance the habitat of the Ridgway’s rail.

As part of the marsh restoration, the University is implementing a feral animal management program designed to help reduce the impacts on the Ridgway’s rail from predators such as free-ranging feral cats, raccoons, and skunks. The program includes creating more habitat, educational outreach, and active predator management, including reducing access to shelter and food near rail habitat, and trapping.

Since the feral animal management program was implemented in 2004, it has become evident that a major source of predator pressure comes from the feeding of wild, free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus) at the RFS.2  Feeding of cats not only increases the population of cats but also raccoons, skunks, and other predators that become accustomed to the free, readily available food. Therefore, the University has decided to prohibit further feeding of feral cats and other animals throughout the RFS, as follows:

Beginning June 1, 2008: It is prohibited to feed or otherwise care for free-roaming cats or other animals at the RFS.

For more information on the UC Berkeley RFS Ridgway’s rail conservation program, go to the Restoration Page of the RFS Environmental Website.

1 As of July 2014, the formerly known as California Clapper Rail is now called the Ridway's Rail. The American Ornithology Union approved this change due to new genetic studies that looked at the relatedness of big rails as described in the following from the American Birding Association Blog http://blog.aba.org/2014/07/2014-aoucheck-list-supplement-is-out.

2 Besides the threat to the Ridgway’s rail, feeding feral cats impacts other bird species. It is estimated that the 100 million domestic and free-roaming cats in the United States kill hundreds of millions of birds annually (Coleman, J.S., Temple S.A., and Craven, S.R. 1999). The domestic cat is listed as one of the 100 world’s worst invasive alien species by the World Conservation Union (www.issg.org/database) due to the predatory pressure they exert on native populations.