Government Gives Order For Mass Slaughter Of Owls

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To protect native species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed a controversial plan to cull more than 500,000 barred owls in the Pacific Northwest. Barred owls, an invasive species from the U.S. East Coast, pose a significant threat to the native northern spotted owls.

The presence of barred owls in the Pacific Northwest dates back to the 1950s. Over time, their population has outnumbered the northern spotted owls in Washington, Oregon, and California. The invasive owls are more aggressive and have a varied diet, which includes insects, amphibians, fish, and other birds. They are also territorial and tend to displace northern spotted owls, interfering with their nesting habits, competing for food, and attacking them.

The impact of the barred owls on the northern spotted owl populations has been severe. The northern spotted owls, already threatened under the Endangered Species Act, have seen their numbers decline by 35 percent to 80 percent over the past two decades. A recent study by Jeffrey R. Dunk, a conservation lecturer at Humboldt State University, found that areas where barred owl control measures were implemented experienced a decline of only 0.2 percent per year in northern spotted owl populations. In contrast, areas without barred owl control measures saw a decrease of 12.1 percent per year.

To combat this decline, the FWS plans to cull approximately 20,000 barred owls in the first year, followed by around 13,397 birds annually in the first decade, 16,303 a year in the second decade, and 17,390 birds each year in the third decade. The goal is to create areas with lower barred owl density, allowing the northern spotted owls to survive and thrive.

While some experts support the culling plan, others argue that habitat protection measures should accompany it. The Pacific Northwest Forest Management Plan, in response to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, has already limited logging in the region to protect northern spotted owl habitat. However, compliance with legal requirements to safeguard Critical Habitat (C.H.) under the provincial government’s Species-at-Risk Act (SARA) in British Columbia, Canada, has been lacking.

The proposed culling plan has received criticism from those concerned about the potential harm to protected birds and the ethics of shooting animals. Bob Sallinger, executive director of Bird Conservation Oregon, expressed skepticism about the program’s effectiveness and consequences. However, studies have shown that the culling of barred owls can stabilize the populations of northern spotted owls.

The FWS remains optimistic about the plan’s potential to protect the northern spotted owls. The goal is not to completely eradicate barred owls but to reduce their population by approximately 30 percent, alleviating the pressure on the native species. According to Kissing Lee, state supervisor for the Oregon office of FWS, creating areas with lower barred owl density can significantly affect the survival and growth of the northern spotted owls.