Hilo woman cited for feeding cats in park where nēnē gosling was found dead

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers cited a Hilo woman after spotting her feeding feral cats in Queen Liliʻoukalani Park and Gardens.

Cat feeders in Queen Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. Photo courtesy: DLNR

Doreen Torres, 66, was issued two citations for violating state endangered and threatened species laws, which prohibit the feeding of protected wildlife, since nēnē may eat the cat food.

Officers alleged Torres put out food for feral cats this morning and last Saturday.

DOCARE has stepped up patrols in the park after it was reported last week that a one-month-old nēnē gosling died there. Toxoplasmosis, a disease carried in the feces of cats, is implicated in the gosling’s death.

Torres is scheduled to appear in Hilo District Court on June 21. The charges against her are both misdemeanors.


Since the nēnē gosling death, Raymond McGuire, a wildlife biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, has taken it upon himself to remove paper plates full of cat food and dump them in the trash several days a week, several times a day.

The state is also working closely with a nonprofit organization to address the continuing rift between cat feeders and wildlife protectors.

Raymond McGuire, a wildlife biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, cleaning up cat food at Queen Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. Photo courtesy: DLNR

“It’s frustrating because I know the community loves the nēnē, here. I got so many phone calls from people who were elated a nēnē hatched in the park. For a month, they (the nēnē family) looked happy, and people were happy because they get to see wildlife in their backyards,” McGuire said.

McGuire said there’s a disconnect between feral cat feeders, who obviously love animals, and their actions that harm and kill wild animals like nēnē.


“We don’t want to go after them with fines and citations,” he said. But their actions are having a clear effect on our native wildlife and our threatened endangered wildlife. Not just nēnē, but monk seals. And not just toxoplasmosis, but cats attack and eat native birds. We want people to understand there’s a place for these cats. Keep them home. Never abandon a cat.”

Wildlife managers and the people behind a new nonprofit working on the issue ask: “What do you want in the future. Do you want more cat colonies, or do you actually want to see native wildlife in your backyard?”

Jordan Lerma of Nēnē Research and Conservation says his group is trying to shift the conversation and bring both animal-loving sides together to find solutions. The nonprofit previously worked to facilitate discussions with cat groups after interactions at Queen’s Marketplace at Waikoloa reached a boiling point.

Heated encounters with officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, and dozens of people who’d been feeding cats regularly, ended with a reduction of cat and nēnē interactions in the area.


“My primary job is as a marine biologist with Cascadia Research,” Lerma said. “We were troubled with the difficulty of reaching segments of the community with good conservation practices. Nēnē are an easy species to connect the community to conservation. I think the cat community are animal lovers and I think they mean well. We just need to be able to work together to solve these hard problems that prioritize native species.

“I think a lot of these people are putting their life savings on the line to care for these animals that they love. I want to acknowledge and respect that. We want to facilitate these conversations with county, state, and federal officials in order to give these people the resources they need to be able to remove, eliminate, or reduce cat interactions with native species.”

Lerma’s group introduced a cat mapping tool to get a better idea of the extent of feral cat populations, estimated to be between 500,000 to 1,000,000 cats on Hawai‘i Island.

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments