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  • Writer's pictureBruce Smith

Owl vs. Owl

This is a tough one. As this Smithsonian article explains, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes the killing of thousands of barred owls over the next several years. The reason -- to benefit conservation of the federally threatened northern spotted owl in the northwestern U.S.

Spotted owls and barred owls are closely related. But only spotted owls are native to the Pacific Northwest. Barred owls, meanwhile, are native to eastern North America but have spread naturally west and have come to dominate the region over the last century. Their larger size, more generalist nature, and faster reproduction rate have primed them to outcompete spotted owls.

It's understandable that population control is necessary when exotic species introduced by humans from overseas threaten the disruption of ecosystems and and potential extinction of native species. Burmese pythons in Florida, mongooses in Hawaii, and wild pigs across much of the US are prime examples. But in the case of the barred owl, this is a native species that is expanding its range without humans' help. What are your thoughts on this conservation proposal?


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