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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Social and Economic Aspects of Cat Management in Hawai‘i


A large component of natural resources management is ultimately about understanding people. Such is the issue with feral cats, a species whose biology is well understood, but management can be contentious. Hawai‘i in particular is an important location in understanding the human dimensions side of feral cat management given the archipelago’s isolation, tropical climate, cultural history, and native biodiversity. Using both human dimensions and economic approaches, we sought to address the following questions: 1) Do stakeholders want to see changes in feral cat abundance? 2) What damages or benefits are correlated with stakeholder’s desired abundance of cats? 3) Which feral cat management techniques would stakeholders prefer to see employed? and, 4) Is it more cost effective to control feral cat abundance with trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs or trap and euthanize (TE) programs? To address our questions, we conducted both a statewide survey of 6 stakeholder groups across the state of Hawai‘i and developed a benefit-cost model coupled with a population model to evaluate TNR vs. TE. We found that across stakeholder groups a large majority of respondents would like to see a reduction in feral cats, and that support for different management options varied somewhat by stakeholder group. Overall, TNR was the least supported management option across stakeholder groups. Similarly, in a benefit-cost analysis, TNR was more expensive than TE across all range of scenarios. Our findings indicate that although there are differences amongst stakeholders in terms of attitudes and management preferences, that there is a strong consensus that the problem needs to be addressed.

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