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Wildlife Biologist Goes Too Far?

An avid conservationist is found guilty of attempting to poison feral cats, which she claims are a threat to wild birds.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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FLICKR, RODRIGO BASAURE

A judge in the DC Superior Court has found Nico Dauphiné, a former researcher at the Smithsonian National Zoo's Migratory Bird Center, guilty of attempted animal cruelty—specifically, trying to poison feral cats in Washington, DC, to protect local bird populations, ScienceInsider reported.

Dauphiné was reported to the Washington Humane Society by DC resident Rachel Sterling, who noticed a white powder repeatedly appearing on the food she and her husband left out for the neighborhood cats. Determining the substance to be poison, the Society teamed up with local law enforcement to catch the offender, placing video cameras to record the food bowls overnight. The cameras captured Dauphiné reaching into a small bag and then down to the food. The next morning, the food was covered in poison.

Dauphiné, a longtime advocate of controlling feral cat colonies for the good of bird populations, has argued that cats...

Though she denied the allegations, Judge Truman A. Morrison III found her guilty after a 3-day trial. She resigned from the zoo yesterday, and is scheduled for sentencing later this month, when she will face a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

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