Neighbor’s complaining, need ideas ASAP

moxiewild

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Hey guys.

Just got a call from my neighbors about other neighbors complaining about a small new colony I feed.

I feed them once a day, every morning around 6 - 6:30 AM.

Apparently the food is attracting buzzards, which I’ve never had an issue with before.

I feed them in the only possible area I can feed them given the neighborhood layout (it’s a production home neighborhood, so everyone is tightly packed). Which I thought I lucked out on, because it’s a drainage way sort of thing. Hard to explain, but it’s behind several houses (these houses can see the food, though), relatively out of the way, and mostly out of street view.

They asked my boyfriend that we stop feeding because they don’t want to attract wildlife (I ensure to feed early and only leave enough food that the cats are capable of finishing it all before nightfall as to not attract typical wildlife - was not anticipating buzzards, though).

Since we only recently discovered this colony along with another one in a separate part of the neighborhood, none of the cats are TNR’d yet. The other colony we found had a bunch of kittens, so we’ve been working through that one first.

I’m not sure what to do. We hadn’t made a proper feeding station yet because I was prioritizing funds for TNR first.

I was going to make a storage bin feeding station, and figure out how to attach artificial hedge panels (like this https://smile.amazon.com/BESAMENATURE-Artificial-Protected-Greenery-Decoration/dp/B071VXJ4D3/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=artificial+hedge+panels+for+outdoors&qid=1594776379&sr=8-3) to it to help it blend in better with the environment, but I’m honestly not sure if that will keep buzzards out if they know food is there (and I don’t quite have the money for this yet...).

I’m just not sure how willing buzzards would be going into it or not. I work in wildlife, but we don’t intake buzzards very often at all, and no one I asked seems to know.

The other idea is obviously the feed them, give them 30 minutes to eat, then pick up the food drill. But there are several problems with this strategy -

1. I’ve been feeding these guys consistently at the same time every day and using a silent dog whistle to signal food time to them, but they still haven’t caught on - or rather, they still won’t come out or around until I leave (and some will come right after I leave sometimes, but other times it’s hours later, and a couple only come throughout the day). Everyone is still very feral (except for one semi feral), and my relationship with them is still very new and they’ve only actually seen me leaving out food the past week or so.

2. I’d only be able to feed them once a day, so they’ll end up getting less food :(

3. To be perfectly honest, I don’t have the time to hang around like that. I feed 5 colonies a day, and two other colonies 2-3x a week (I take shifts with another caretaker). Plus I have 17 fosters/pets at home. As it is already, every spare second I have every single day is spent on cats and cat chores.

So I just don’t think that sort of scheduled feeding is something I can manage. I’ve already been struggling to make time for these two new colonies as is.

Another thing I was considering was an automated feeder (placed in a storage bin for weather protection). I have no idea how well this would work with the buzzards, but I imagine that it would help? (Any recommendations on battery powdered feeders would be very welcome).

The last option would be the “nuclear” option, which is relocating this colony to my house. Unfortunately, I live on the complete opposite end of the neighborhood, so I can’t just “encourage” them to come over, I’d have to do a complete relocation process.

Potential issues with that -

1. I’m afraid of creating a vacuum effect, obviously.

2. Since I have limited space, the process would be EXTREMELY slow. Only 2-3 cats/kittens at a time, taking 4-6 weeks of confinement for each group. Not sure if my neighbors would agree to that timeline. :/

3. I already have a colony at my house, so this would involve a “merging” of colonies, which could go either way.

However, my house colony is not a “cohesive” colony, which may play in my favor here? Out of about 12-14 of them (plus a litter of kittens we’re waiting for Momma to bring around), only two are sometimes friends.

Everyone else goes off on their own, they never eat together (other than the two who sometimes show up together), some of them fight (all but two are TNR’d), and they never hang around at my house. They won’t be in my presence at all without taking off, even after ~3 years. They just come to eat and do their own thing otherwise.

In contrast, the drain colony gets along very well and they often show up in various groups of 2-3 (along with two neighborhood pet cats) and everyone is very relaxed and peaceful (despite no one but the pets being neutered).

In total, there are at least 4 adults (one is black and we have a black cat problem here, so I’m not certain whether it’s the same black cat I always see or not), and 3 older kittens. So we’d be adding 7 new cats.

3. Because the drain colony is more cohesive, i feel like it’s more likely (especially after they’re TNR’d) that they will hang out at my house.

The one benefit of my house colony not hanging around here is that they don’t attract any attention, so I’m a little concerned about this (bringing them here would otherwise make things a lot easier for me, though!)

What do you guys think? Any suggestions? Has anyone ever dealt with buzzards before?

Two things I need to clarify -

- I can’t socialize these guys. We are OVER our max capacity right now, I cannot do it.

I tried for weeks to find someone to take the older kittens in both colonies. I contacted well over 60 rescues, and posted everywhere I knew to get a foster with no luck.

- I have an HOA, so I need to tread very lightly here. This is my main concern, especially because we are well over the pet limit with our indoor guys, so I cannot be on the HOA’s radar.

ANY suggestions here are welcome. I really can’t bear to stop feeding these guys, but I have to consider the cats actually under my roof first and foremost.
 
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moxiewild

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One more thing - I need ideas on how to talk to the neighbors about all of this since they asked that we stop feeding.

I’m an extremely non-confrontational person, so I struggle with this aspect a lot, especially knowing that I have my indoor guys on the line here if things go south.

Any advice for how to communicate about this would be greatly appreciated. The people here are generally pet-friendly, so I at least have that in my favor.
 

Jcatbird

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Unh. I do know the feeling and the situation. The buzzards make it hard to stay under the radar. First, try to get to know that neighbor and make some kind of friendly gesture. Learn little about them and try talking to them about something besides the cats first. Welcome wagon! Hi! Nice to meet you and a bit later.....I want you to know that I am also trying to eliminate the breeding of cats and , with time I hope to end all feral colonies! You don’t need to tell them it’s by TNR and then letting the colony diminish as kitties stop the population explosion. Although, educating can be done if you get on good speaking terms with them.
Buzzards will follow the food! It may be easier to relocate the buzzards by leading them to a different feeding spot. They prefer stinky food so, is there a place you can put some cat food that has been in the sun and gotten stinkier? Away from human noses? I managed to do that here and it worked. I also accidently caught a buzzard in a cat trap. The whole flock witnessed it and when I managed to release the trapped bird, it left with the flock and none returned until the next breeding season! (Those birds had been nestlings near here and grew up stealing cat food) It’s a couple of years later and those buzzards still come here during nesting season and land on my trash cans! I find they come when there seems to be little to eat elsewhere. When traffic ceased on the highway in front of my land due to Covid, they showed up daily! Once again, I led them away by putting stinky food elsewhere. Traffic has retuned. I am seeing them far less now and I can only attribute that to food being available somewhere else. I actually spotted them a few days ago beside the highway about a mile from here. They are very smart birds. I found they knew my feeding schedule for the ferals and watched for me. They also recognized feeding dishes. During the height of colony numbers here I did manage to trick them just a little. I put food dishes under things ( cheap tarp painted green to camouflage, inside cardboard boxes, under my car , whatever I could come up with at the time... cost was a factor here too) , I did not let them see me carrying food, I went to feed a bit earlier or a bit later and I wore clothing that made me appear different. Like a brimmed hat. You won’t fool them for very long and the cats may not love any changes but it might help for a short time. My best luck was with feeding the buzzards separately. A buzzard feeding station where they could quickly spot the food and eat while I fed the cats in another spot. If the neighbors don’t see buzzards landing, it may buy you some time. My neighbors didn’t like seeing buzzards either. Hoping you have an easier time of it! :hugs::rock:
 
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moxiewild

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Unh. I do know the feeling and the situation. The buzzards make it hard to stay under the radar. First, try to get to know that neighbor and make some kind of friendly gesture. Learn little about them and try talking to them about something besides the cats first. Welcome wagon! Hi! Nice to meet you and a bit later.....I want you to know that I am also trying to eliminate the breeding of cats and , with time I hope to end all feral colonies! You don’t need to tell them it’s by TNR and then letting the colony diminish as kitties stop the population explosion. Although, educating can be done if you get on good speaking terms with them.
Buzzards will follow the food! It may be easier to relocate the buzzards by leading them to a different feeding spot. They prefer stinky food so, is there a place you can put some cat food that has been in the sun and gotten stinkier? Away from human noses? I managed to do that here and it worked. I also accidently caught a buzzard in a cat trap. The whole flock witnessed it and when I managed to release the trapped bird, it left with the flock and none returned until the next breeding season! (Those birds had been nestlings near here and grew up stealing cat food) It’s a couple of years later and those buzzards still come here during nesting season and land on my trash cans! I find they come when there seems to be little to eat elsewhere. When traffic ceased on the highway in front of my land due to Covid, they showed up daily! Once again, I led them away by putting stinky food elsewhere. Traffic has retuned. I am seeing them far less now and I can only attribute that to food being available somewhere else. I actually spotted them a few days ago beside the highway about a mile from here. They are very smart birds. I found they knew my feeding schedule for the ferals and watched for me. They also recognized feeding dishes. During the height of colony numbers here I did manage to trick them just a little. I put food dishes under things ( cheap tarp painted green to camouflage, inside cardboard boxes, under my car , whatever I could come up with at the time... cost was a factor here too) , I did not let them see me carrying food, I went to feed a bit earlier or a bit later and I wore clothing that made me appear different. Like a brimmed hat. You won’t fool them for very long and the cats may not love any changes but it might help for a short time. My best luck was with feeding the buzzards separately. A buzzard feeding station where they could quickly spot the food and eat while I fed the cats in another spot. If the neighbors don’t see buzzards landing, it may buy you some time. My neighbors didn’t like seeing buzzards either. Hoping you have an easier time of it! :hugs::rock:
Lol, I sometimes create a “wildlife feeding station” when trapping at night to keep them away from the traps :lol:

The only place I could put “distraction food” would be on someone else’s property :/

So smart to try and trick them by changing your appearance! Never would have thought of that!

I’ve never noticed any vultures/buzzards in the area before, so I’m not sure if they watch me or just come later in the day. And of course, we pulled our game cameras last week because I needed to change the batteries and I just kept forgetting to take them back out so I can’t even check!

I am surprised there is so little information about this online. There’s so much info on ants and other critters, but I couldn’t even find anything on Alley Cat Allies about buzzards or vultures.

Did blocking their view of the bowls ever deter them, or did they still find the food? I was thinking a temporary solution might possibly be placing a storage tote on its side and close to the fence if that’s a possibility.

Otherwise, until I figure out (or can afford) a solution, I think I’m going to go out and feed at 4 or 5 AM and then pick up the bowls at 6 - 6:30 AM when I do my other rounds. Which will royally suck, but I don’t know what else I can do. How well this will work will depend on how bad the nocturnal wildlife are with that schedule :/ But either way, at least humans won’t generally be awake to see any of it.

It just feels like a no win situation sometimes, you know? Between ants, weather, flies, the skittish nature of ferals, nocturnal wildlife, and now this. And of course, the biggest obstacle of all - humans!

I’m not sure who all complained. We already had a little meet and greet with the neighbors who called. They saw us feeding one day so we went to talk to them to explain what we were doing, and we gave them our number just in case there was any problem with the cats as a show of good faith. But I don’t know any of the other neighbors in this area.

The ones who called were aware that ferals were around though, and seemed to be happy that we were going to be neutering everyone.

I try to be as discreet as possible and I’m so hesitant to go to the doors of the other neighbors to try and discuss solutions with them. All it would take is one report to the HOA or city/county.

Ugh. I hate this part of caring for ferals :(

I’m also really annoyed that I’m essentially going to have to deliberately push back any TNR for at least a month in order to afford to make a discreet looking feeding station that’s unobtrusive to the neighbors (even though the station is in a freaking drainage ditch, basically...). I know a number of females are around at both colonies and all of the kittens are about 4-6 months old... the last thing I need is more kittens :bawling2:

I’m really hoping vultures/buzzards won’t go into a tote with a 6” entry, because that’s really all I got right now. I just wish I had an idea of whether or not it would actually work before I dump money into it.

Keeping my fingers crossed that someone in the avian unit on the day shift at work will know and get back to me tomorrow.
 
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moxiewild

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Update -

I set out food this morning around 4:30, and picked it up around 7.

I checked the game camera, and no vultures or other wildlife showed up. Yay!

When I got there, all of the wet food - 2 full 5.5oz cans of Friskies pate with a lot of water added - was gone, along with about a third of the dry food, so I was relieved that it seemed like at least some of the cats got the food.

However... the game camera only picked up one cat - an unneutered Tom we named “Wolfie”.

Wolfie is typically one of the first ones at the bowl, but he usually grazes throughout the day too. It seems weird that he would suddenly scarf down food - and 11oz of wet and a good bit of dry, no less!

So I’m wondering if maybe the cameras missed something...

I did leave the water bowls out, and I’ll go tonight to check the cameras to see if the vultures still came. Not looking forward to seeing all of the videos of the other cats and kittens searching for their food all day, though 😭

Hoping they’ll catch onto the new schedule quickly 🤞🏼
 

fionasmom

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Okay, so this is a real mess despite you incredibly good efforts to help these cats and the neighborhood as well. Alley Cat Allies supposedly does a lot with community support and gives talking points to be used at city council meetings, etc. Did you find anything on their website? It might even be worth a call to them asking for advice since so many cats are involved.

Being non confrontational is probably in your favor as confrontation will not work with these people, so being calm and nice is in your favor. If these people mention rounding up the cats and getting rid of them that way, make sure they know about the vacuum as most people of their ilk don't understand that concept.

I don't know that short term solutions are any other than what you are doing with changing the feeding schedule.

As Jcatbird Jcatbird said, I have had some luck with managing crows who come for cat food. I do need to say that I started it because I am one of those people who love crows and for years have had a "relationship" with those on my property; however, when they got too big for their britches and started outsmarting me with stealing cat food I redirected their attention with a tea time crow snack which basically worked.

I don't envy the position you are in and wish I had more advice.
 

Jcatbird

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To answer your question about blocking the buzzards view of the food, it helped for awhile. They never did go under the tarp I had. I don’t know why they didn’t. Purely coincidental? :dunno: Feeding them another places helped the most. I’m glad the ones there did not show up today. Just try to stay one step ahead of them. They soar high in the sky searching for food. Stay off their radar if you can and I am hooping everything there will improve. I do know how hard it can be and my heart is with you. Maybe you could start a movement there with the other animal lovers to get some help? I worked many long months alone but when I found ONE person, it really helped and things began to change for me and for the cats. I found other help as I went through the process. I had tried every avenue with no success at first so, keep looking. You certainly have people here who care! Finding TCS helped me to get through many tough efforts and I hope it works the same way for you. There is strength in numbers so maybe you can get the ball rolling to form a group of rescuers. It could change a lot there. I know many rescuers need to remain anonymous but you can start out with one trusted human.
 
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