Shoreline Park is a grass-filled 750-acre wildlife and recreation area sitting right in the middle of the technological boom that is Silicon Valley. The beautiful area is home to a vast number of birds, including the Burrowing Owl, which is listed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as a species of “special concern.” There are about 50 left in Silicon Valley.
The Burrowing Owl nests in the ground (hence the name) making it specifically vulnerable to land predators. With a large amount owls being killed over the recent years in the park, researchers found that our feline friends were the perpetrators, and Google is the catalyst for the problem.
The park sits along the vast Google campus in Mountain View, and the company is well-known for its support of employee supported programs. One of those programs is GCat Rescue, which traps stray cats, neuters them and either puts them up for adoption or releases them back into the wild.
The problem? They are releasing these cats right into the home of these endangered Burrowing Owls.
This is a story of bad consequences coming from good intentions. The cat lovers at Google are simply following their hearts and caring for these stray cats, but they’re accidentally lowering the fragile owl populations in the process.
A burgeoning stray cat population has blossomed in the park, mostly due to the automatic cat feeding stations that Google has setup around its campus. Last year, the number of reported cat sightings in the park was 318. The number of baby owls spotted in the park? Zero.
Cats were made to hunt and the Burrowing Owl provides the perfect prey. The owls live in the ground and sit on their eggs during breeding season – a perfect opportunity for a seasoned hunter.
Even amidst this feline drama, Google hasn’t indicated that it will remove the cat feeding stations near the park, citing that it is an employee venture, not one of the company. Other tech giants like Facebook have eliminated their cat feeding programs.
Now that this story is becoming more viral around the country, our guess is that Google will put a nix on the program. This whole weird and wild story begs the question – do we value house pets or endangered species more? I’ll let you make that decision.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine