Are Google’s Cat-Loving Employees Killing Burrowing Owls?

An anonymous reader writes: Google’s employees started a group called GCat Rescue that traps feral cats and puts them up for adoption. (Though “less-friendly adult cats are neutered and released… The cats that are released are implanted with tracking chips, and an ear is notched so they can be identified.”) A public records request discovered that city employees kept catching the Google-chipped cats in a nearby wildlife and recreation area that was home to the very last 50 burrowing owls in Silicon Valley — which California has officially designated a species of “special concern”. Someone had apparently even installed a cat-feeding station next to a designated owl-nesting area.
The local Audubon Society has been asking Google to review their cat-feeding stations since 2012, but environmental groups told the Times Google was “consistenty unhelpful” on the cat issue. “They told us it was something their employees were doing and they couldn’t interfere,” said a board member with a group trying to protect the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. “One of the cats was trapped, turned over to the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority, released to Google, trapped again in the park and released again to Google,” the Times reports, adding that “In August, it was found dead in the park.”

“Like so many stories these days about Big Tech, this is a tale about how attempts to do good often produce unexpected consequences, and how even smart people (especially, perhaps, smart people) can be reluctant to rethink their convictions.” The Times reports that a “final victory is at hand” for the cats, since last year was the first time in 20 years that no owl fledglings were observed in the park — though “as recently as 2011, there were 10.” But the number of cat sightings was 318.

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