Comstock cat-mystery perps may be coyotes |

Comstock cat-mystery perps may be coyotes

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Rumors have abounded around Virginia City that someone is trapping cats in the historic mining town and taking them to Reno animal shelters, where they are being euthanized.

It’s also possible that outside cats – either pets or feral cats – are becoming prey for wildlife.

Pat Wiggins, shelter manager of Carson City Animal Services, said he has 50 cats in the shelter right now, but can’t say that any came from Storey County.

“We don’t take cats from outside of Carson City,” he said. “But it’s tough to prove where they come from.”

Bonnie Brown, executive director of the Nevada Humane Society in Reno, said she has not noticed an increase in cats from Virginia City brought to her shelter.

She also said removing feral cats and having them euthanized would only exacerbate the problem, not solve it.

“The problem with just removing them is more move in to take their place,” she said. “It’s the vacuum effect.”

She recommended a policy of “trap, neuter, release” in which feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, then returned to their area so other cats don’t move in.

“Not only do you prevent the breeding, but once they’re vaccinated, they don’t pose any risk at all for the public’s safety,” she said.

Brown added that once a feral cat is neutered, it becomes less of a nuisance animal.

“Once they’re neutered, they become pretty good neighbors,” she said. “When they are not neutered they have a tendency to roam, spray on things, and howl. Neutering is usually the ticket. It dramatically reduces the complaints.”

Cindy Sabatoni, manager of Washoe County Regional Animal Services, said only one ear-tipped cat has been brought in from Virginia City in the past three months, along with a litter of kittens that were found under the bridge on Six Mile Canyon Road.

“So, no, we’re not getting trapped cats unless they are leaving them in the night drop and not leaving any information,” she said.

Sabatoni said if cats on the Comstock are disappearing, it’s possible that coyotes are responsible.

One Virginia City resident, Pauline Fitzpatrick, also reported seeing a mountain lion on the edge of town in late February or early March. Mountain lions are known to hunt for pets when game is scarce.

One group that is running a “trap, neuter, release” program is Community Cats, a Reno group that works out of the Washoe County Regional Animal Services facility.

Denise Stevens said people can bring in feral cats – in traps – on Wednesdays and Fridays, and she and Dr. Diane Lucree will spay or neuter the cat, vaccinate it ,and remove the top quarter-inch of its left ear to indicate the animal has been altered.

“It’s a humane alternative to euthanasia, and it ends that cycle of kittens, so you can reduce the population,” she said, adding that in the five or six years Community Cats has been operating, they have neutered and released about 5,000 cats.

The organization is run on donations, and Stevens said they do want the animal to be in a trap when it’s brought in.

“We only do the feral cats,” she said.

Stevens said they have neutered and released cats from Virginia City, including a large colony at Piper’s Opera House, and some may have ended up at the shelter. “I do think some have ended up at the animal control center, possibly redeemed by their caregivers.”

Sgt. Chris Parsons of the Storey County Sheriff’s Office said they are not trapping cats at the moment, and haven’t loaned the department’s two small-animal traps out in Virginia City for more than a year.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111, ext. 351.

For your information

To contact Community Cats, call (775) 720-8067.


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