EUGENE, Ore. - Up to three nights a week, Erika Westling sets out metal traps with canned tuna as bait.
Once, she caught three young raccoons in the traps.
Other times, possums are lured in by the can of tuna or dry cat food.
But most of the time, Westling finds exactly what she's looking for: a feral cat waiting inside the trap.
She is one of 10 Greenhill Humane Society volunteers trying to control the feral cat population through what's known as a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program.
"Feral cats are a problem humans created and I think it's up to us to stop it," said Westling.
Estimates of the feral cat population in Lane County range from 20,000 to 40,000.
Cary Lieberman, the executive director of Greenhill Humane Society, said he believes the numbers are closer to 20,000.
As part of Greenhill's TNR program, feral cats are sterilized and returned to their neighborhood.
It's the most humane solution to Lane County's cat over population problem, said Lieberman.
"Removing the cats won't necessarily work," said Lieberman. "And it isn't the best thing to do either for the cats or to be a good neighbor, as well ."
He said close to 2,000 cats have been sterilized since Greenhill started the TNR program three years ago.
The cats can no longer breed, which should reduce the cat population by attritition, eventually reducing the number of nuisance complaints and the disease among animals.
Is it working?
"We're seeing it in isolated areas," said Lieberman, who said volunteers set traps in targeted areas, like mobile home parks. "Overall in all of Lane County, the numbers are roughly the same as they were a number of years ago. But we know this works because we're doing it in isolated areas and can see the effects almost immediately."
"It is upsetting when you run across a huge group of cats and many are sick and you can tell they are pretty miserable," said Westling. "But hopefully through this program we prevent more misery down the road."
Greenhill Humane Society is offering a training class on October 23 for people interested in trapping feral cats or caring for feral cat colonies. For more information, click here.