Cats are as much a part of Cape May, New Jersey, USA's genteel culture as rainbow-colored Victorian-style bed and breakfasts, trolley tours and cocktails on the porch at sunset.
They are also suspect No. 1 in many deaths of the endangered piping plover, a fist-sized, white-and-brown fuzzball of a bird that has closed beaches and stopped development projects in the interest of protecting their habitat.
With only 115 pairs of piping plovers left in the state, the federal government may intervene on the side of the birds, which has set both fur and feather flying here. Cat lovers fear the roaming felines will be euthanized, while bird lovers are wary of a rare species being wiped out.
"This is a very emotional issue; this really is a cat town," said resident Pat Peckham. "I think they should leave the cats where they are. I'm a firm believer in letting nature take its course."
The plovers, which breed on East Coast beaches during warm weather, build nests in sandy, open stretches of beach, making them and their chicks easy prey for a variety of predators, including foxes, gulls, raccoons and cats.
Annette Scherer, a senior biologist with the Fish & Wildlife Service, said the agency is studying the situation in Cape May.
Possible recommendations could include asking the city to adopt laws requiring cats to be licensed, prohibiting free-roaming cats and abandoning cats and feeding wildlife, including feral cats.
Cat lovers across the country are keeping watch so strays are not sent to shelters, where most are euthanized if they cannot find a home.
Ray: Say, have you noticed all the birds lately?
Charles: Yeah. It's breeding season, so you see a lot of them.
Ray: They're getting kind of annoying. They are starting to wake me up in the morning.
Charles: You consider that annoying? I'd rather wake up to birds than traffic.
Ray: I don't know. Something about the sound just pushes my buttons.
push one's buttons 冒犯
If you push someone's buttons, you annoy or aggravate someone in a way they particularly dislike. "John really pushes my buttons when he makes fun of my braces."
如果你push someone's buttons，你可能打擾或侵犯到他人特別不快之處。「當約翰嘲笑我的牙套時，他真的惹毛我了。」