Thursday March 7, 2013

Keep ‘em indoors Editor of the Reformer:

Despite the cute headline ("Purr-fect solution," Feb. 23-24), the Trap-Neuter-Return policy soon to be implemented in Bellows Falls is very far from being a "purr-fect" solution to the problem of free-roaming and feral cats.

According to a recent study conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, domestic cats, including feral, "unowned," and free-roaming pets, are responsible for the deaths of as many as 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion small mammals in the United States each year. The study doesn’t mention reptiles and amphibians, but I am sure the numbers are comparable. These are creatures that are essential to maintaining ecological balance. Ornithologist Peter Marra, who conducted the study with his colleagues states, "Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for U.S. birds and mammals." The study is critical of the Trap-Neuter-Release policy, calling it "potentially harmful to wildlife populations’ because it leaves so many of these non-native predators in the wild."

About a third of our 800 species of birds in the U.S. are endangered, threatened or in significant decline, according to the American Bird Conservancy. While the majority of the devastation is caused by feral cats, a significant percentage of the killings are caused by well-fed household pets.


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While many argue that killing is "natural" to domestic cats, and "just what they do," cats are not a native species and they compete with native predators. Unlike pet dogs, cats almost everywhere are not legally required to be licensed, vaccinated, or controlled in any way. Anyone whose neighbor’s wandering felines are a nuisance because of destruction of birds and other wildlife, defecation in gardens or children’s sandboxes, or their "marking" dwellings or other property with nauseating and virtually irremovable odor have little or no recourse (except for a vigilant dog).

Cats are extremely adaptable creatures, of course -- that’s why there are so many of them -- and they easily adjust to an indoor-only existence. Millions happily do. I have owned two myself. It is absurd to maintain that a cat cannot be happy or healthy unless it can roam unhindered outside.

Indoor cats lead statistically longer and healthier lives. They are unendangered by disease, traffic, or predators. Cats are the domestic animal most frequently reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for rabies.

It is interesting to me to see the little "gravestone" a neighbor, who has free-roaming cats, has near the side of the road, marking the lifespans of "Blacky," "Felix" and "Fritz," none of whom survived much more than two or three years. Some time ago we found the front end -- just the front end -- of a cat under a tree on our property -- possibly the remains of the meal of a Great Horned owl. I wonder whose pet it was, and if the owners were missing it, and loved it, but can’t help but think, "What goes around, comes around."

Heidi Mario,

Brattleboro, Feb. 25

More snow coming; slow down!

Editor of the Reformer:

Some drivers go slowly when the roads are slippery. Some fearless Vermonters keep going the speed limit, and probably wonder why other drivers drive slowly. Driving slowly when the roads are slippery, isn’t a matter of timidity; it’s a matter of physics.

What makes your car stop when you hit the brakes is friction between your tires and the road. What keeps you on the road when you go around a curve is also friction between your tires and the road. In order to stop when you want to stop, and in order to stay on the road when going around curves, the friction between your tires and the road has to be enough in relation to whatever keeps you going straight. What keeps you going straight is the speed at which you are already going.

So, staying on a curved road, and stopping, are both contests between your speed and your friction with the road. When the road is slippery, your friction with the road is much less than normal. For the friction to win the contest, the speed has to also be slower, too. If you are going too fast for the amount of friction you have, your car will keep going in the direction it is already going.

Most people already understand most of what I just said. Here’s the part that most people don’t know. These situations are actually contests between the square of your speed, vs. your friction. Your speed times itself, is what matters in relation to friction. Stopping distance changes with velocity squared. So does the force required to keep a car on the road in a curve. If you double your speed, you quadruple your stopping distance and you quadruple the friction needed to stay on the road in a curve. Slowing down or speeding up, changes your stopping distance and changes your ability to handle curves, a lot more than it appears to as you look out your windshield, and a lot more than just the numbers on your speedometer. Your speed changes the physics of driving, much much more than the numbers on your speedometer. Multiply them by themselves to get a more accurate understanding of their effects on driving.

Slowing down makes a huge difference in driving in slippery conditions. I strongly recommend it.

Heidi Henkel,

Putney, Feb. 26

Celebrate student art

Editor of the Reformer:

For 33 years the Arts Council of Windham County has designated March as Student Art Month. Why is this important? Why should it continue? Why should you care?

First off, take the opportunity to experience some of the great art coming from our young people. Nothing beats your own first-hand reaction to what our kids are doing. Shows of High School work from around the county open Friday at Equilibrium 14 Elm St. just off Elliot, and at Vermont Artisans Design Gallery 2 (upstairs). Elementary School work will be at the Brooks Library and elsewhere around town and around the county. These shows will be up for the month.

But student art takes many forms beyond what hangs on the wall or graces our shelves.

A listing of the myriad student theater, music, and dance performances to which the public is welcome will be published weekly in Thursday’s Ovation section and at www.acwc.us. Watch ‘em act, watch ‘em sing, watch ‘em dance!

It has been shown that practicing art makes good education and good citizens. But this won’t continue without public knowledge and support. So, turning the spotlight on the great art coming from our young people, and our teachers and school systems that help young artists to blossom, is a public service to help our communities invest our education dollars wisely.

Most art is about communicating something that does not fit into our intellectual frameworks. That communication is only complete when what the artist produces touches the lives of others. Student Art Month gives our young artists the opportunity to have their work connect with a wider community. This is affirming and supportive of their growing skills, and gives them an opportunity to experience the full circle of being an artist in the world.

Most important is that our young people have views of life and beauty that are indeed fresh, vibrant, and important. Experiencing what they have to show us in this ever-changing world is a gift to ourselves making our lives richer and fuller. The artist in all of us will be refreshed and inspired by their work. So ACWC does this to strengthen the artistic life of all of us in the county.

Why should you care? Perhaps its is best for you to see what’s going on, and then let the rest of us know.

Doug Cox,

ACWC President,

West Brattleboro, Feb. 27

Beg your pardon?

Editor of the Reformer:

With all do respect, Putney’s most famous son is George Aiken, not Peter Shumlin "Putney OKs full-time sheriff," March 6).

Stephen Fitch,

Putney, March 6

A new version of an old game

Editor of the Reformer:

In the 1940s America played a popular game called Chinese Checkers. Now we see that China is playing the game for real ... on the Internet.

Mark Reinhardt,

Brattleboro, Feb. 28