Now that I've brought back all the cats trapped to date (except the ones being spayed/neutered today), the inmates really trust me and catch more cats than I do. :-)
We trapped two more cats last week and two more over the weekend. Actually, I should say the inmates caught two cats for me Wednesday because the cats weren't responding to the yummy food in the traps. The inmates were able to pick up a few more of the cats with my heavy animal control gloves and put the cas into the traps. So Max and Runt (Runt is a little black lady - maybe 7 months old -- with beautiful green eyes) were spayed/neutered last week.
Last night I had a trapping partner (other than the inmates who always help). Katie is doing a senior project on feral cats; she is rabies vaccinated, volunteers at Operation Catnip, and is now getting experience doing the actual T part of TNR. Good thing because we broke out the drop trap and while some very talented people may be able to do it by themselves, I find it much easier with two people (after the cat is actually trapped).
A few of the cats like Smokey and what I'm sure is the mama to the gray babies (two still to catch) seem to be very trap savvy so I brought my fabulous folding drop trap purchased from HubCats Boston. And I broke out the good stuff - people food (KFC worked last weekend to catch the kittens). First, I drove by KFC to buy some chicken to take off the bone because kitties love KFC. Imagine my surprise when they tell me it will be 15 minutes for original recipe and 10 for extra crispy. Seriously? I mean really - that is all you make - chicken - how can you be out?! So I stop at JJ's Fish and Chicken on the way to the prison and buy a combo plate of fish and shrimp to entice the cats. (Dear IRS - can I put all this on my taxes? I'm spending a fortune in people food trapping cats, but will you decide to audit me if you see KFC and JJ's Fish and Chicken on my taxes? It's not for me, I don't like fish and I can't stand KFC, it really is for TNR projects.)
Set up the drop trap and put some shrimp and fish under it and BAM - less than five minutes, Smokey was under the drop trap and after we drop it, he's trying to levitate enough to lift it (hah, I have weights on the back, buddy boy). Run to cover the trap, some of the inmates help hold it down while Katie and I work to get him from the drop trap to the humane trap. Success!
We then move the drop trap to another location near where the mama and babies have been sighted and also set up some humane traps along the perimeter. After about 40 minutes or so of that, we decide to set up outside the back gate where we have seen her cross over to other state property. It's dark and it's hard to see when a black cat is under a drop trap but Katie has better eyesight than I do and told me when a cat was under and to pull and drop the trap, and we did and caught her. So it is dark and we're not quite sure it's the mama, but we're hoping. The kittens are old enough to take care of themselves so I put food and water under the trailer. If this is the mama, I'm going to hold onto her for just a bit longer than usual in hopes that it will help us get the kittens a little easier -- without mama telling them "no, that trap is bad, don't go in there".
And with Smokey caught, that is allegedly the last cat inside the cats that needs to be TNR'd (I asked the inmates and guards to be on the lookout for cats without cropped ears and if seen, have the guards call me to let me know).
So, unless there are more seen inside the gates without cropped ears, we'll turn our attention to outside the gates (front, back, side, basically all around it where ever we are allowed to go) and try to get the rest. Although we have no idea how many there are.
So we've trapped 12 feral adults (6 males and6 females) and taken in (to our adoption program) 1 friendly adult and 12 kittens so far from the prison.
Seven of the kittens were born inside the gates and had interaction with the inmates from almost the time they were born so they were super friendly from the minute we took them in. The other five kittens (and 2 still to catch) were born outside the gates, meaning no interaction and they are a challenge. I've split them into two cages (3 in one cage, 2 in the other), but Alcatraz is one of the 3 in a cage and will be moved tonight to a cage by himself - sadly. Sing-Sing and Rikers are in the cage with Alcatraz and while they don't like attention yet, they don't try to attack me. I actually have to put on goggles to stick my head into the cage with Alcatraz -- he was the hardest to trap and he may be the most challenging to come around, but he might surprise me. I don't want him hindering the taming of Sing-Sing and Rikers so he'll be by himself and I'll work with him seperately. Sing-Sing and Rikers (caged together) and Folsom and Attica (caged together) hiss and spit and try to get away but don't seen totally adverse to being petted. They might not enjoy it yet, but they don't threaten my life when I open the cage. :-) I'm going to start with turkey baby food on my fingers with them tonight and see how they react. Alcatraz gets turkey baby food on a very long spoon or I might lose a finger).
I have faith these babies will all come around and be adoptable sweethearts, it just might take a while. Once I get them to where they are doing really well, I'll try to play musical foster homes so they don't just socialize to me.