A Plan to Save One Kind of Owl Calls for Killing Another


To the untrained eye, the spotted owl and the barred owl look almost identical.

They both have round heads, dark eyes, tiny beaks and bodies covered in mottled brown and white feathers.

But the birds, which are found in California and the Pacific Northwest, face two very different fates.

The barred owl is native to eastern North America, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers it to be invasive on the West Coast. The agency has proposed eradicating up to half a million barred owls in Washington, Oregon and California over the next 30 years.

Federal officials say that such drastic action is necessary because the barred owl has been encroaching on the territory of the spotted owl for half a century.

Populations of the northern spotted owl, a subspecies native to the Pacific Northwest, have declined by as much as 80 percent over the past two decades. There’s concern that the northern spotted owl, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, may eventually become extinct.

In the Golden State, barred owls have also emerged as a threat to the California spotted owl, a subspecies closely related to the northern spotted owl, in the Sierra Nevada and the mountains of coastal Southern California.

The plan to eradicate the barred interlopers has drawn heavy criticism in some quarters, including wildlife protection and animal welfare groups, Franz Lidz wrote in The New York Times last week. I highly recommend reading his full article, which explains the long history of the barred and spotted owls and what science says about the efficacy of eradication plans.

“The concept of shooting birds is awful — nobody wants that,” Karla Bloem, the executive director of the International Owl Center in Minnesota, told Lidz. “But none of the alternatives have worked, and at this late date, no other option is viable.”

The plan is reminiscent of another plan under consideration in California. I wrote in the fall about a proposal to kill all the mule deer on Santa Catalina Island, about 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. The deer were introduced there for sport hunting nearly a century ago, and scientists say they destroy native vegetation and make the island more susceptible to fires.

As you might expect, that plan has also prompted a fierce reaction. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to make a final decision this year.

A new coffee cart at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita is being run by the school’s special education students, KABC-TV reports. The program is intended to help the students learn vocational skills and develop independence.

The cart, called Grizzlies Cafecito, operates once a week, and teachers said it might expand to more days in the future.

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