MADISON, Wis. – Feral felines fearing for their lives in Wisconsin got a boost Wednesday from Gov. Jim Doyle (search), who said a plan to allow hunters to shoot wild cats at will is dead.
"I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," said Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat. "What it does is sort of hold us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now."
He said his office has received calls from around the country denouncing a plan passed Monday night at meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress (search) that would classify wild, free-roaming cats as an unprotected species.
That designation would allow licensed hunters to shoot feral cats (search), which are considered an invasive species that kills songbirds and other wildlife.
About 57 percent of those who attended congress meetings in all 72 counties Monday night -- mostly outdoors enthusiasts -- supported the change. For the proposal to become law, the state Legislature would have to pass a bill and get Doyle to sign it.
Animal rights groups have belittled the idea as inhumane and dangerous -- and raised the specter that neighbors would shoot Fluffy for wandering into their yard.
Doyle said he respects the Conservation Congress, considered a strong advocate for hunters, but "on this one I think everybody recognizes it's not going anywhere."
The congress is a citizens group that advises the Department of Natural Resources. The Natural Resources Board at its May meeting will decide whether to order the DNR to ask the Legislature to support the change.
At the Conservation Congress meetings, a total of 6,830 people voted for the plan while 5,201 voted against it. Fifty-one counties approved the idea, according to results released by the DNR.
Some estimates indicate 2 million wild cats roam Wisconsin. The state says studies show feral cats kill 47 million to 139 million songbirds a year.
South Dakota and Minnesota both allow wild cats to be shot.