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BARKER – Barker village officials are looking for volunteers to help tackle a burgeoning feral cat problem in the village.

The board recently contracted with Feral Cat Focus, a volunteer group from Erie County who helps trap, neuter, vaccinate and return feral cats to the area. The group also helps find new homes for kittens and friendly cats not owned by residents through adoption-guaranteed organizations.

Edie Offhaus, a co-founder of Feral Cat Focus, will hold a training session for volunteers from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Barker Village Hall, 8708 Main St.

“This is for people who like cats and/or people who want to solve the problem of overpopulation of cats in a humane way,” said Offhaus. “I will be training anyone who wants to help with the trapping and transporting, and with the safe return of feral, free-roaming cats. Volunteers must follow the guidance of Feral Cat Focus.”

Offhaus held an information session in Barker in January. She has emphasized the importance of educating the public on creating a controlled colony with healthy spayed or neutered cats, in an effort to control the numbers of feral cats in a community.

Her group was contracted by the Town of Newfane last spring to help with a feral cat problem near the town marina in the hamlet of Olcott.

“This is kind of a grassroots effort, a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of project, where people can take ownership of their community,” said Olcott resident Jane Voelpel, who volunteered with that effort and will volunteer again in Barker. “You create pride in your community through projects like this. By trapping, spaying/neutering and returning, you’re making a better life for the cats and a better community for yourself.”

Voelpel called the Olcott effort “a success story,” a term echoed by Newfane Supervisor Timothy Horanburg.

Horanburg said, “They did a great job. The problem has subsided considerably and I give them a lot of credit.”

Voelpel said, “I think we educated people. I think they became more aware. And Olcott could become a model for any community, Barker included.”

Barker Deputy Clerk Amanda Detschner, who is heading efforts for the Village Board, pointed out, “You don’t even have to live in Barker to volunteer for this.”

But she said her effort to recruit volunteers has resulted in only a handful stepping forward.

“We need volunteers to educate the public on feeding the cats and volunteers to check on the cats once they’ve been spayed (and are healing),” she said. “If they’re good with this sort of thing, we need volunteers to help trap the cats and transport them, but they must have covered vehicles. We need a volunteer in charge of the traps – to keep track of who has them and where. And it would be great to have some help with fundraising.”

Voelpel added, “I urge people to volunteer who like cats and want to help. They can help as little or as much as they want to get involved. You could walk door-to-door and hand out pamphlets or if you had the time, you could set aside an hour to drive to the clinic in Blasdell (where the cats are inoculated and neutered). The people in Barker are also looking for someone to donate the use of a garage or barn where the cats can go after their surgery because they need to heal before they can be returned.”

For more information, contact Detschner at 795-3777.