Barred owls could get the boot (or a bullet) to save spotted owls
Article Date: 2009-12-09 Source: http://www.oregonlive.com
By Matthew Preusch
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. - The U.S. government, facing ongoing decline in protected spotted owl numbers, wants to try ridding the woods of some of its bigger and more aggressive cousins, the barred owl.
That might mean shooting them, trapping them and moving them out, or some other
technique. And if the experiment works, it could be expanded across the Pacific
Northwest for years to come.
"The decision to kill large number of barred owls for an extended period is fraught with ethical issues, and the decision to let the spotted owl go extinct is fraught with ethical issues," said Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Portland Audubon Society.
"We're stuck between two evils."
Though Audubon, Sallinger said, would err on the side of avoiding extinction.
The spotted owl is dependent on the region's oldest forests, which are a
fraction of their historic extent. The bird's addition to the list of endangered
species nearly two decades ago contributed to a collapse in public lands
But the owl's numbers continue to fall.
More recently, blame for that has been laid on the barred owl, a larger bird
more common in the East that has been moving into Northwest forests.
"We hope this will show us whether barred owls are really driving spotted
owls out of the woods, which is what we think they are doing them," said Phil
Carroll, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which today released
its proposal for comment.
Government policies to trap or kill one species in order to save another aren't
new. Sea lions that feed on protected salmon at Bonneville Dam are routinely
hazed and, sometimes put down. On the coast, hunters battle ravens and raccoons
that attack the nests of snowy plovers.
"But we will not proceed with this experimental removal until we better
understand - and document - the environmental effects of doing it," said Paul
Henson, the wildlife service's Oregon supervisor.
The agency is proposing to remove barred owls from three areas: near Cle Elum,
Wash.; Oregon's Coast Range, and the Klamath Mountains.
Government scientists will measure whether spotted owls in these test zones do
better than those in areas where barred owls remain. They'll also be able to
learn how quickly barred owls repopulate an area they've been removed from.
The results of the experiment, if it goes forward, could inform a long-term plan
to reduce barred owl numbers for years to come.
"If the experiment shows that there is a negative effect from barred owls and
you can knock it back by removing them, you're locking yourself into removal on
a large scale," said Dominick DellaSala, lead scientist for National Center for
Conservation Science and Policy in Ashland.
That could be complex, expensive and open-ended, said Audubon's Sallinger.
And it shouldn't be done in the absence of protecting the bird's remaining
"I think to kill barred owls without having a real plan in place to recover our
forests is obscene," Sallinger said.
Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://www.oregonlive.com and placed here for comment.
OwlPages.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.
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