Save the Spotted Owl! With Mr. Chainsaw and Mrs. Shotgun…

Yes, you did read the title correctly. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have now turned their attentions to the plight of the Northern spotted owl, which resides in the woods and forests of the Pacific Northwest. Current proposals include shooting competing owls and chopping down trees with cuddly old Mr. Chainsaw.

The proposals come in response to the figures showing that since the owl was made an endangered species in 1990 spotted owl numbers have decreased by an average of 3% each year. Ok, now this is something which clearly needs to be looked at, especially since the rival barred owls invaded its ancestral territories.

Northern Spotted Owl

These proposals have emerged from a report the FWS conducted into the plight of the owl in the summer of 2011. In this case, the FWS have submitted some sensible proposals like the idea to increase the owl’s protected habitat by around 2.2 million hectares.

However, what has caused some controversy is the battle over deforestation as FWS director Daniel Ashe suggested that fire-prone forests should be logged to protect the landscape. The problem with this is that exactly how fire-prone does a forest have to be to be logged? Most forests are technically prone to fire, but if we have a forest which has stood for a generation without any problems then should we be logging that? Of course we shouldn’t.

Overall, the idea of logging fire-prone forests in the vain hope that it will help encourage the growth of the spotted owl is a slippery slope as taking the decision to cut down trees which take years and years to grow should not be taken lightly.

Also, let’s take a look at a pertinent point made by Ecologist Dominick DellaSala, director of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, who made the interesting point that this proposal by the FWS is untested. This proposal has never had any studies conducted, large or small, so are we just going to chop down the trees and pray it works? That’s not science, that’s idiocy.

The other proposal was to simply remove the barred owls from the territories. This would be a sensible decision if the owls are having a negative impact on the spotted owls, but are they really? Even Daniel Ashe of the FWS conceded that it would be at least a decade into the experiment before this could be discovered at all, and this is what makes you wonder whether it’s really a good idea at all.

So they want to either shoot or relocate the barred owls to boost the spotted owl population, despite the fact that they don’t know if this will help at all? Essentially, they are saying let’s give another species of owl a good kicking as an experiment to see if it will help. That’s not right at all. Relocate them, maybe, but don’t shoot them.

The question they should also be asking is why are the Barred owls there? Why have they moved out of their own territories? If the answer is overpopulation due to the fact that they have grown too much then, yes, the population may need to be culled. But if the population has been reduced because you destroyed their homes, then that’s your fault and you should be removing the logging companies and creating an area where they can flourish without having to damage other species.

The public do have 90 days to submit their comments, but what do you think should be done when an endangered species’ territory has been invaded by another species which has become displaced somehow?