Eliot Circular

Feral Kittens Ravage Canyon

Wildlife of a different stripe: a feral Canyon kitten patrols Cerf amphitheatre.  Eren Veziroglu ’16

By Anna Mann

The untamed beauty of the canyon attracts all manner of wild creatures, from steelhead trout to blue heron to a raft of otters. In the last couple of years, however, nature lovers have reported a flurry of encounters of a fuzzier kind.

The story begins in the spring of 2011, when a deceptively innocent-looking kitten was spotted in the vicinity of the Reed Theatre. Eluding all attempts at capture, the bewhiskered fugitive (later named Ms. Tuxedo Patches) survived to give birth to several litters. Before long, a veritable colony of feral kittens was skulking around Cerf amphitheatre, darting hither and yon, chasing their tails, and—after the humans had been lulled into complacence—raiding the dumpsters behind commons.

Brittney Corrigan-McElroy ’94, who works in conference & events planning at Reed, first took note of Ms. Tuxedo Patches during a summer picnic in the Quad for Chamber Music Northwest, which the matriarch celebrated with a lusty counterpoint. As the kittens multiplied, Brittney set out to capture them with the help of the Feral Cat Coalition. Employing Trader Joe’s ocean fish flavor cat food for bait, she was able to trap most of the velvety vagabonds. Some were adopted (Brittney, a student, and a CSO each took one); others, deemed too old to be properly socialized to humans, were neutered, vaccinated, treated for fleas, and released back into the canyon. (Ms. Tuxedo Patches herself was finally apprehended in January, spayed, and returned to her kindle.)

Wildlife advocates have expressed concern about the potential damage that a colony of cats might wreak up on the canyon’s ecological balance, especially if they prey on native birds. However, Reed canyon czar Zac Perry doesn’t lose sleep over the furtive felines. “The last time I saw them in a group, two of them were fighting over a soggy french fry,” he says.