Feds’ plan: Killing one owl species to try to save another

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SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologists are proposing a plan to kill one species of owl to save another. That’s raising questions about how much involvement is appropriate when it comes to wildlife.


Photo of northern spotted owl, courtesy of USFWS

Residents say the Snoqualmie Valley is not what it used to be. Twenty-five years ago, the major industry in the area was timber.

“They still do some logging here. I still see them running trucks through but not like it was in the past,” says Michael Olson, a resident of North Bend.

Federal restrictions on logging went into effect in the early 1990s, in part to protect the threatened northern spotted owl.

“It was a big blow; people considered it basically the closing blow to the logging industry,” says Dara Ballard, a longtime Snoqualmie resident.

But saving the owl’s habitat has not saved the owls. U.S. Fish and Wildlife says the bird’s population in Western Washington is continuing to decrease at a fairly steep rate. Now they’re blaming the non-native barred owl.

“We have been dealing with the issue of habitat now for 20 or 30 years. We’re now looking at this new threat that reared its head in the last 10 or 12,” says Robin Bown, a biologist with U.S. Fish & Wildlife.

She says barred owls are pushing spotted owls out, because they’re larger and more aggressive. But isn’t that just a case of survival of the fittest.

“It’s possible, but that’s the assumption that this is a natural event,” says Bown. “To do that, you’d have to assume that the barred owl got here on their own.”

She believes people had a part in moving the barred owls in, so Fish & Wildlife is trying to play a part in moving them out.

On Tuesday, they proposed a plan to capture or kill barred owls in four study areas in the Northwest. They want to see if that will help spotted owls re-populate.

“In this case, we’re only proposing an experiment. A fairly small-scale experiment to test if this will even work,” she says. “Our only other alternative is really to sit back and watch the spotted owl go extinct.”

Fish & Wildlife is expected to make a final decision about whether to move forward with the plan in about a month. If it is approved, the experiment would begin in the fall and continue for the next three or four years.

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  • Alfred Williams

    You would think that the fact of the Magnetic North Pole moving towards Russia is impacting the migratory flights of all birds, including the owl, would be the first consideration of the Fish and Wild life as the primary cause of the reduction of the owl population. This killing approach is simply moronic. The reason for the increase of other species is the same as the decrease of the species normally seen at the location in question. The migratory patters of these birds is seriously altered by the moving of the Magnetic North Pole.

  • Matt

    Seriously? Lets save the owl cause its migratory patterns are off? Owls aren’t migratory birds! The barred owl is invasive. Killing them off is the only reasonable approach. Move them back to their normal habitat to help the balance.

    • Jane

      BS. The fact is that long before man had any impact on animal species ANIMALS WENT EXTINCT. Thousands of animal species, if not tens of thousands, have gone extinct over t he course of the history of this planet and man had nothing to do with MOST of those extinctions. Eventually man will go extinct.

      Killing off helpless animals because some nutter at Fish and Wildlife, who probably barely passed high school biology let alone someone who actually understands these things, decided that it would be politically correct to save one species over another is BARBARIC.

      • Christopher

        I agree one hundred percent. If we care so much about them all of a sudden, then we should stop letting anyone in the oceans, because the ocean is just getting poluted and is killing Millions of fish and birds.

  • Ruthie

    This is the most idiotic idea I have heard recently. What happened to the spotted owl's habitat, in the first place?

  • Jane

    They did the same thing in CA to kill off an "invasive" fish species in Plumas Lake. The lake is a primary potable water source for a number of communities. Fish and Wildlife decided that POISONING the lake was the only way to cull the invasive species. What happened? The human population got sick, had to haul in water by truck and the fish…it escaped into other watersheds making the poisoning of the lake, which kill thousands of NATIVE fish as well, a 100% failure.

    Preserving habitat is one thing, killing off animals on purpose is RIDICULOUS and fruitless.