Last year I wrote about bears and the apparent evolution of a new polar/brown bear cross. And now owls, the Barred Owl and the Spotted Owl. It will not be light reading, but I urge your attention to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared by the Oregon and US Fish and Wildlife agencies. The title sets the stage: "Experimental Removal of Barred Owls to Benefit Threatened Northern Spotted Owls". My summary. Barred Owls are bigger than Spotted Owls and have occupied desirable habitat with increasing success. The population of Spotted Owls is declining in areas where the Barred Owls compete for the desirable niche. The agencies propose to shoot the Barred Owls and see if the Spotted Owls will subsequently prosper. I am not making this up.
The agencies acknowledge that this is not about reducing man made impacts on the owls such as logging. They observe that even without any trace of human development, the Barred Owls are moving in and the Spotted Owls' success in rearing young diminishes. Nevertheless, in the words of US Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe, "...we have a clear obligation to do all we can to prevent the Spotted Owl's extinction and help it rebound." The DEIS is packed with moral baggage. The Barred Owls are said to have "invaded" new territory. Darwin would tell us that they took advantage of the opportunity presented by a weaker rival. DEIS: Barred owls represent the "most pressing threat" to the Spotted Owl. Darwin: This is an example of survival of the fittest. DEIS: The presence of Barred Owls "exacerbates" the decline of the Spotted Owl. Darwin: Species will adapt and thrive or otherwise perish. The agencies have arrogated to themselves the role of evolutionary agent. Without agency intervention, nest success diminishes, populations diminish, the genetic pool is weakened and eventually either adaptation or extinction occur. Courtesy of the agency proposals, healthy, mature, breeding adults are slaughtered - lured to the gun by recorded mating calls. OMG.
The agencies are seeking public comment. Perhaps I will send them a video of the old TV series, Sing Along with Mitch Miller. In "Be Kind to Your Webfooted Friends" he had just the message for them.