National Audubon Society suspends Ted Williams for cat comments

It appears that the National Audubon Society has suspended longtime contributor and vocal conservationist Ted Williams for some comments he recently issued regarding the efficacy of Trap-Neuter-Release programs for feral cats.

The National Audubon Society is about nothing if not the courage to take a stand for conservation.  In recent years, the organization has leaned heavily on the pointed articles from Mr. Williams appearing in Audubon magazine to do just that.  He has written about everything from Arctic oil drilling to ORVs on the Carolina Coast, and never shied away from a controversial topic.  I haven’t always agreed with him, but I have always been impressed with his commitment to speaking out on behalf of the species under threat.

In this case, birders and conservationists have lamented for decades that there just aren’t as many birds around now as there used to be.  It’s not extinctions, it’s a general reduction in abundance for species after species.  There is no smoking gun for the majority of these cases: habitat loss, pesticides, window mortality, cat predation – all contribute to the declines.  We shouldn’t concern ourselves with which is worst before we act, we should work to reduce the effects of all of these pressures wherever and whenever we can.  It’s not just nice to do that:  keeping common birds from declining to the point at which their recovery is really compromised makes good economic sense too.

Unfortunately, the data suggest that trap-neuter-release programs are bad news for the local wildlife in proximity to feral cat colonies.  Wildlife managers need the authority to employ lethal methods of cat control in problem areas.  We do for other problem wildlife that actually are native species: opossums, raccoons, skunks, armadillos, voles, gophers, moles, etc.  Some cat advocates consider domesticated cats to be native wildlife – which is demonstrably false – but some of our native species are treated more harshly by animal damage control practitioners and private citizens protecting the integrity of their lawns than are cats.

Minna Hall and Harriet Hemenway would not have cut their ties to Ted Williams over his comments.  They would have joined him in the fight.  Come on, Audubon:  reinstate Williams and publicly take a stand to say why it’s the right thing to do.


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7 Responses to National Audubon Society suspends Ted Williams for cat comments

  1. heidi says:

    Very well said!


  2. Hey, Tim. Thanks for your comments. In the course of Ted Williams’ original op-ed, which has since been edited by the Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Williams described using over-the-counter drugs to poison cats. And because of Mr. Williams’ stated affiliation with Audubon in that original piece, some readers assumed that Audubon was endorsing this approach. We do not. Audubon fully understands the gravity of the threats cats present to birds. Cats – particularly feral cats – are a leading cause of bird deaths. But individuals poisoning cats isn’t the answer, and we want to make it absolutely clear we don’t support that idea.


    • Mark says:

      Ted Williams is nothing but a radical extremist, and audubon and any other conservation group out there should distance themselves from him. He has done nothing but be abrasive, obnoxious and extreme when it comes to pretty much every single topic he writes about. He does far more to hurt the conservationist cause by making conservationists look like a bunch of nuts. This “cats” deal and promoting illegal means of dispatching them is just another of his blunderings. He also was CLEARLY advocating illegal means to kill the cats before the article was edited…


  3. Pingback: Endangered Species & Wetlands Report » Audubon writer Ted Williams suspended, pulled from masthead, for Orlando Sentinel column on feral cats

  4. @NAS – Thanks for the reply. I don’t have a problem with the NAS issuing a statement that they do not condone something Ted Williams has published elsewhere. Audubon is not Ted Williams. It’s okay to disagree with him. The action that appears cowardly, however, is the severing of Williams’ affiliation with Audubon. We don’t always have to agree all the time – these are really complex issues we face in conservation. But the solution is not to kick someone off your team for holding an extreme view, the solution is to work with that person and figure out how to address that view moving forward. Ask yourselves how often Williams has been on the wrong side of a conservation issue. If you arrive at a number close to zero, then perhaps Williams’ is not the voice that should be silenced at the NAS.


  5. Resolution:

    Ted coming back = good. I’d still love to see Audubon apologize to Ted and to its members for losing its moorings – even temporarily – in the face of pressure from the “catvocates”.

    See “Guy Bradley”:


  6. Pavel says:

    Audubon – the worst thing for birds since DDT. A bunch of alarmist nuts who turn off bird lovers who aren’t single issue activists.


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