Monday, July 15, 2024

US Officials Plan to Cull Hundreds of Thousands of Owl Species to Protect Spotted Owls

Controversial Plan to Save Spotted Owls by Killing Barred Owls in West Coast Forests

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a controversial plan to save the imperiled spotted owl from potential extinction by deploying trained shooters to kill almost half a million barred owls that are encroaching on their territory. Barred owls from the eastern U.S. have been crowding out their smaller West Coast cousins, the northern spotted owls and California spotted owls, making it difficult for them to compete for food and habitat.

The plan calls for the removal of up to 470,000 barred owls over the next three decades in Oregon, Washington state, and California. Previous efforts to protect spotted owls focused on preserving their forest habitats, but the increasing population of barred owls has undermined that work.

The proposal has sparked a division among wildlife advocates and conservationists. Some reluctantly support the plan as a necessary step to save the spotted owl, while others criticize it as reckless and a distraction from the importance of forest preservation.

Barred owls have already been targeted for removal in spotted owl habitats for research purposes, with thousands eliminated since 2009. The new plan aims to reduce the number of barred owls in areas where they are more established, although complete elimination is unlikely.

Critics of the plan argue that the mass killing of barred owls could disrupt forest ecosystems and inadvertently harm other species, including spotted owls. They also question the idea that barred owls do not belong on the West Coast, viewing their range expansion as a natural ecological process.

Supporters of the plan, including the American Bird Conservancy, believe that removing barred owls is necessary to protect the remaining spotted owl populations. Northern spotted owls are currently classified as threatened, with a possible upgrade to endangered status pending. California spotted owls are also under consideration for federal protections.

The decision to implement the plan comes after years of conflict between conservationists and timber companies over the protection of spotted owl habitats. The reinstatement of habitat protections under President Joe Biden highlights the ongoing struggle to balance wildlife conservation with economic interests.

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