MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) – The claws came out this week as Mountain View cat lovers ripped apart a proposal to control the feral felines threatening the endangered burrowing owl and other birds at Shoreline Park.

The growing number of feral cats in the area could wipe out several native bird species, including the few remaining burrowing owls that nest in the park, said environmentalists who supported an ordinance to outlaw feeding strays, or releasing cats north of Highway 101.

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“Cats are not a native species, and they are not in decline, at least not in the United States. However, they’re putting birds at risk that are in decline,” said Stephanie Ellis, director of the Santa Clara Valley Audobon Society.

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The Mountain View City Council on Tuesday replaced the feeding and release provisions in the animal control ordinance, approved 6 – 1, with a clause that creates a task force to gather data on the problem.

Only two burrowing owls have been killed by predators in recent years, according to city officials, and it was not clear that cats were the killers.

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Fat Cat Rescue and other animal advocacy groups have argued the ordinance as originally drafted would have hindered successful trap, neuter and release programs intended to manage the city’s feral cat population.