Sandspit couple takes on pet project

  • Apr. 28, 2014 8:00 p.m.

Submitted by HG SPCA–“I was forced to retire and I had to keep busy,” Nance Robbins says loudly. “There were all these homeless cats and kittens, lots of them sick. I thought, maybe I can do something for these cats!” She and her husband have a lot of energy. On their own and with a little help from the Haida Gwaii SPCA, Nance and Peter Grundman started building recovery boxes and capturing feral cats in Sandspit. Moving to their new house, they converted their old one into a holding and recovery area so the felines could be housed before and after being transported to the vet in Tlell for surgery. There the cats are vaccinated, spayed, neutered, and given a notch in one ear for identification. That way, once released back at their original location, Nance and Peter can tell whether a cat has been sterilized.Young kittens can usually be tamed and placed in new homes, but most captured cats are too wild to make good pets. Often feral colonies form because unfixed abandoned cats have found a food source, and the cats then reproduce, becoming wilder and more inbred with each generation. Disease and starvation are likely the main checks on population growth. Until Nance and Peter got involved, that is. Together, they’ve trapped and cared for over 50 cats in the last four years, and aren’t planning to stop, despite busy lives. They’re building a house, Peter volunteers with the local fire department, Air Search and Rescue, Rangers and the ambulance service as well as flying for Inland Air and Nance is recovering from a kidney transplant. As wildlife rehabilitators they are both involved in rescuing wild birds such as eagles and hawks, owls, ducks, and the occasional bear.”We have to keep going with the cats,” Nance says. “We’ve put so much work into it already, and I’m optimistic that we’re almost there,” which means having a healthy, controlled population.The biggest challenge has been financial. Despite the fundraising raffle of two tables Peter built, the support of the HG SPCA, and the reduced fees offered by the animal hospital, sometimes Nance and Peter find there are more cats than money.Fortunately, this spring, the BC SPCA approved a $5,000 grant for the Haida Gwaii branch to implement a trap, spay/neuter, release program. “The first target area is in Sandspit, where Nance and Peter have already put in so much energy,” said Dorothy Garrett, director on the HG Community Council. So with the efforts of resident feeder Arlene Erlandson, Nance and Peter and other volunteers, possibly the last 15 unfixed ferals along Copper Bay Road have been trapped and sent to the vet. The idea behind having a controlled colony is that this huge effort won’t need to be repeated. The colony stakes its territory, preventing others from moving in. The colony stops renewing itself, and with every fixed cat having an ear notch, there’s a better chance that people in the neighbourhood will notice a stranger, so it can be caught. Nance says she and Peter will persevere, setting traps until every last one is caught. Then it’ll be up to the community to make sure all companion animals are fixed before they have a litter and by acting immediately if a homeless cat or kitten shows up. Call the HG SPCA to discuss options. If each of us takes responsibility in our own neck of the woods, perhaps it’s not too optimistic to imagine that we don’t end up in the same situation again.

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