Be she the scientific scourge of cats?

A November 1 report in the Los Angeles Times reads like an extract from a crime novel:

Smithsonian bird researcher is convicted of trying to poison cats

A postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo was found guilty Monday of attempting to poison cats in her northwest Washington neighborhood. Security cameras had caught Nico Dauphine, 38, standing over a bowl of cat food outside an apartment complex last March. She denied the charges and claimed she was just removing food to keep strays away. Prosecutors argued that she had taken rat poison out of a bag in her purse and was putting it on the food. (No cats ate the food.) A District of Columbia Superior Court judge convicted her of attempted animal cruelty, a misdemeanor. She will be sentenced Nov. 21 for the crime, which carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine….

Dauphiné [pictured here, from her old web site at the University of Georgia] is co-author of a study that implicated cats in the murder of what it estimates to be a rather large number of birds per year:

Impacts of Free-Ranging Domestic Cats (Felis Catus) on Birds in the United States: A Review of Recent Research With Conservation and Management Recommendations,” Nico Dauphiné  and Robert J. Cooper, Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics, 2009, pp. 205–21. The authors write: “Given the large numbers of cats and considering the numbers of avian prey returned to owners, a minimum of one billion birds killed by cats annually in the United States is a conservative estimate, and the actual number is probably much higher. Stallcup (1991) and Gill (1995) estimated bird mortality caused by pet cats alone at over one billion birds per year.”

Science Insider reports on the court trial:

Judge Truman A. Morrison III noted in his remarks that, during Dauphiné’s testimony during the trial, she declined to discuss whether she agreed with various academic papers on which she was listed as an author, and said she wasn’t familiar with many of their statements about the danger that feral cats pose to birds. In delivering his verdict, Morrison said that the notion that Dauphiné wouldn’t be familiar with papers she authored or co-authored “doesn’t have the ring of the truth.” He also “found that her inability, indeed her unwillingness to own up to her own professional writings … undermined her credibility.”

(HT Jonathan Eisen)