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Google's Battle With Cats and Owls
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Google's Battle With Cats and Owls



Burrowing owls have a lovely home in a 750-acre wildlife and recreation park in Northern California, located right next to Google headquarters.  The burrowing owl is a California species of "special concern."  Between 2015 and today three of the owls have been killed, half of the park's burrowing owl population.  A feral cat was spotted in the park shortly after the first death.


Public records requests and good old-fashioned snooping resulted in finding the party responsible:  Google.  Google employees have formed a group called GCat Rescue.  The groups traps cats living around the Googleplex.  Friendly adult cats and kittens are put up for adoption while the wild cats are neutered and released, along with implanted tracking chips and notched ears.  GCat has had 185 adoptions, but there are no figures on the releases.  "Trap, neuter, and return" is a popular practice nationwide among cat lovers because the result is that the practice stops nuisance behaviors such as fighting, screaming, roaming, and hunting.


GCat also lays out a nightly feast for the cats, intended to keep the wild cats from hunting.  The protectors of the owls maintain that even fed cats still hunt, and they are hunting the owls. Environmental groups have identified 318 feral cats in the preserve.  


Facebook , also located near a preserve area, has eliminated its cat program.  E-mails sent by the New York Times reporter at remain unanswered.  David Streitfield, "GoogleDoesn't Hate Owls.  It Just Loves Cats," New York Times, May 27, 2018, p. A1.  The Bay Area abounds in avian species and they are vulnerable to the cat population. Neighbors near Googleplex complain when GCat does not feed the cats because then they have to deal with the feral cats. 


City officials from Mountain View have begun trapping the tagged cats in the area and are turning them over to animal control.  Google provided a tour of its GCat facilities, complete with straw beds and elaborate feeding stations for the cats that are released.  A Google spokesperson explained, "Google understand the cats are not supposed to cross the line into the park."  However, the Times reporter watched one evening as one of the tagged cats headed right toward an owl's burrow. 



Are there any laws being broken with the Google program or trapping the cats?

List all of the stakeholders involved and affected by the owl vs. cat issue.

Is there any way to balance the interests of those stakeholders?