by JOHNNY WEEKSClarendon County will soon have help in coping with and controlling its' feral cat population. A Second Chance Animal Shelter, working in partnership with groups and individuals in the community, is announcing the official start of a county-wide Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) program for feral cats. "Feral" is a behavioral trait used to describe non-domesticated felines left to fend for themselves. Typically, colonies of ferals develop, and grow exponentially. In the wild, this is not so much an issue. But in residential communities and left unchecked, serious health and quality-of-life concerns soon arise. Although accurate figures are unavailable, it is widely accepted that the feral cat population in the county is significant, and growing rapidly. Until now, efforts to control and eventually reduce these populations have been by individuals or small, informal groups within the community. With the announcement of TNR, and with the added assistance of ASCAS, this should change dramatically. According to Donna Stegmoyer, ASCAS board President, joining these groups together, setting specific goals, and implementing them collectively will more effectively target and eventually reduce these feral colonies within the county. With Trap/Neuter/Release, specific colonies will be targeted. Volunteers then will work to capture cats within these areas, transporting them safely to the ASCAS shelter in Manning. While there, cats will be examined and treated as necessary, then spayed or neutered. Volunteers will then transport the altered felines back to their original locations and release them. Unable to mate and produce offspring, colony populations gradually decline. TNR is not a new concept. In fact, it is most often the same informal process used by individuals in Clarendon or small groups throughout the country to gain some control over feral cat populations. Within South Carolina, there are active TNR programs in Orangeburg, Calhoun and Greenville counties that have proven to be the most humane and effective way to accomplish this goal. Although not an official ASCAS program, the shelter has agreed to add its' experience and abilities to the planning and implementation of this county-wide program. Funded by the anticipated support and donations from residents like Ruthe and Art Lambert and local business owners like Von Corbett, it will start modestly, but with plans to grow quickly as word spreads and results speak for themselves. According to Jackson Padgett, ASCAS Executive Director, the shelter will provide capture "traps", train volunteers in their safe and humane use, and coordinate the program with participating members. Also, ASCAS will arrange for the critical spay/neuter surgeries required to begin managing feral populations. Padgett states this is in line with the mission of his organization. For its' part, the community at large can participate by contacting the shelter with information on known feral colonies and support these efforts with their patience and financial donations. Contact the shelter directly at 803-473-7075.