From the driver’s seat of his van, retired mechanic Joe Hodge watches fishing boats pull into Brookings Harbor. He’s 93 and has lost his wife, so he comes here to watch the world go by.
He also enjoyed watching the feral cats that lived here, before the small colony of felines was wiped out.
“The cats were pretty,” Hodge said. “People came and made sure they had fresh water and food etc. The cats looked good.
For years, people who didn’t want to keep their pets left them here at the docks. But in the past few months, a dozen or more cats have been captured, spayed or neutered and moved.
For years, jetty cats have been a part of coastal culture, dating back to when local rulers didn’t bother them to gorge on bits of fish left by fishermen, fries tossed by tourists or even cat food left over from sinks. Intended animal lover. There are settlements in communities along the west coast.
But now a number of coastal Oregon towns, including Brookings, have taken steps to eliminate cat colonies; animal lovers say they are inhumane and a nuisance.
Hodge recalls another settlement, about 30 miles up shore, on the north pier of Gold Beach, which included a row of small painted houses that locals had built decades ago.
“They had churches and grocery stores and hotels, and all kinds of things,” Hodge said.
But over time, the paint on the little houses peeled off and the wood rotted. Cat food left by locals attracted rats and other wildlife.
Bo Shindler lives just up the hill from Gold Beach Colony and said he first loved cats, like the time he found kittens in his wooden shelter.
“I turned on the light and went to get the firewood and the cat and these kittens were sleeping on the firewood,” he said. “It scared them in broad daylight and when they jumped it scared me in broad daylight.”
Over the years, he says, problems have arisen. People started throwing garbage nearby. He also accidentally killed three cats three times because they were looking for heat under the hood of his car when he started the engine.
Shindler said the whole place had become a nuisance.
“It marks this north pier as a place where, I don’t know what you want to call it, it’s no man’s land,” he said.
Local cat fanciers have noticed the peeling paint and rot. They got together to renovate the houses. But Shindler and other neighbors had seen enough.
“It was a really nasty kind of political type incident that happened,” said Amanda Trover, director of the Wild River Animal Rescue at Gold Beach. The shelter takes care of the feral cats of the region.
“They worked very hard to get all the cats out and adopt them, fix them, put them in barns. If they were social, they put them in houses,” Trover said of the people who cleaned the cats’ houses. “They busted their ass and did what probably should have happened a long time ago.”
Feral cats are big mice. They learned to hunt in the wild. But these qualities often mean they don’t enjoy domestic life.
Trover thinks society has abandoned the outdated idea that waterfronts are a good place for cats because they’re close to fish.
“Some old school people think it’s good for cats to roam free. And then new age, they’re like, ‘No, let’s fix them. Let’s give them real homes, real families’ , said Trover.
There is no concerted effort to shut down all cat colonies from the pier. It’s a more organic embrace of trapping, spaying, neutering and relocating.
In fact, not all cities suppress their cat colonies. In Port Orford, a group of cats have lived near Ray’s Grocery Store for years. Jude Wickley has worked with locals to trap, neuter or neuter and rehabilitate cats. Now there are seven left, and they have all been fixed.
“The most humane way to solve the problem is to trap, neuter and release,” Wickley said. “The settlements will eventually disappear. If you just eliminate the cats, it won’t solve the problem.
Back at Brookings, Joe Hodge misses the cats, along with the skunks, coyotes, rats, crows, seagulls, possums and raccoons who all took advantage of the free cat food left where the cats lived. wild.
“Why do we want to get rid of everything except what you or I want? Hodge said. “We are changing the balance around the world.”
At 93, Hoge has probably earned the right to be a philosopher. But for everyone else, it may be time to balance the benefits of dropping off a troublesome pet and knowing that one cat can produce 24 kittens in a single year.