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A Flight For Ferals

The Humane Society of the United States

cat san nicolas island flight


It was a short flight from San Nicolas Island to Ramona, Calif., but for 16 feral felines, it was the flight of their lives.

These lucky cats are the second group of ferals trapped by federal officials on San Nicolas—which sits off the Southern California coast— and given reprieve from a death sentence.

Cleared for landing

Staff from The Humane Society of the United States greeted the cats as they landed on the hot runway and whisked them into air conditioned vehicles for the short ride to The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, operated in partnership with The HSUS.

"After many months of hard work and dedication by all involved, it was wonderful to see the planes full of cats land on that runway," said Betsy McFarland, senior director for companion animals for The HSUS. "These beautiful animals deserve the opportunity to live a full and happy life, and we're thrilled to provide them a wonderful new home at our sanctuary."

Are we home yet?

While stressed from the flight, the cats were curious about their new temporary quarters at the Ramona facility, which they'll call home until a beautiful, permanent outdoor enclosure is constructed on the property.

The new cat facility, already being built, is designed to provide the cats with the kind of natural habitat to which they are accustomed.

In the meantime, the animals are being medically evaluated, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated.

Donate to The HSUS' Community Cat Program Fund to help the San Nicolas Island cats.

About the project

This happy ending is the result of close cooperation between The HSUS and multiple state and federal agencies.

The outermost of the Channel Islands of California, San Nicolas is located approximately 60 miles off the mainland coast and is owned by the U.S. Government (having been in use by the U.S. Navy as a missile telemetry site since the mid-20th century). 

A population of feral cats has lived on this island since at least the 1950s.

Because feral cats are considered "non-native" species, officials joined with the U.S. Navy in a decision to eliminate them. Authorities said they hoped to improve the nesting success for seabirds who increasingly rely on islands as refuges, as well as bring some benefit to other native species on the island, including the unique Channel Island fox and federally threatened island night lizard. 

That meant all of the cats would have been euthanized had it not been for the efforts of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals to provide them a permanent home. 

Setting a plan in action

As part of the removal effort, the agencies agreed to transport healthy captured cats to the mainland into the custody of The HSUS which is providing permanent sanctuary to the ferals at The Fund for Animals' sanctuary.

The HSUS will place the healthy kittens up for adoption into indoor-only homes.

This important initiative expresses the ambition of saving many lives—of birds, the state endangered island fox, and native deer mouse—and of the cats, who through no fault of their own found themselves living on the island.

The HSUS is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Navy to make sure the feral cats are protected and treated as humanely as possible during this complex effort.

Although The HSUS supports Trap-Neuter-Return for feral cats, it recognizes situations where returning cats may not be appropriate or are prohibited by law—such as on San Nicolas Island. And by offering a solution and providing a positive outcome for these feral cats, The HSUS hopes it will set a precedent for more humane feral cat management among state and federal agencies.

How you can help

Private donors and corporations like DoGreatGood.com are helping to support this initiative and to assist our efforts to provide a lifetime home for feral cats, and to better understand the needs, challenges and options for these special animals. You can help by donating to The HSUS' Feral Cat Program Fund to help us provide lifetime care for the San Nicolas Island cats.

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