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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
US state takes aim at feral cats
Cat (file photo)
Wild cats have been blamed for the deaths of millions of songbirds
Wild cats in the US state of Wisconsin could soon be lined up in the sights of hunters' rifles if plans to list them as an unprotected species become law.

Proposals to allow licensed hunters to kill the animals won early backing from citizens polled by a state agency.

Supporters of the plan, which must now pass before a wildlife board, legislators and the governor, say wild cats kill millions of birds every year.

Opponents say hunting the cats to check their numbers is cruel and inhumane.

Two state senators have already said they will oppose the move.

"I don't see a whole lot of momentum for it," said Senator Neil Kedzie.

He said he did not believe it was the Department of Natural Resources' duty to "regulate" cats.

An online petition against the plan claims to have gathered some 17,000 signatures.

Fair game?

Wisconsin state officials estimate wild cats kill between 47m to 139m songbirds every year.

The number of feral cats in the state is said to number 2m.

Members of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a citizens' advisory group, voted by 6,830 to 5,201 voted in favour of allowing hunters to kill the cats.

Under the plan, any cat that does not have a collar and is not under the direct control of its owner can be killed.

However, opponents of the plan say there are better ways of controlling the cat population, arguing instead for the animals to be captured, neutered and released back into the wild.

The US states of South Dakota and Minnesota already allow wild cats to be shot.

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