Friday 2 March 2012

Conservation dilemma – Kill to save?

Should we ‘control' species to preserve another?

February 2012. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is contemplating ‘controlling' (Lethal and non-lethal methods) Barred owls as part of an effort to boost the population of the Threatened Northern Spotted Owl. 
The main issue for Northern Spotted owls is that great swathes of their natural habitat, old growth forests, have been cut down. However, it is difficult to recreate new 'old growth forests', so untill more suitable habitat exists the USFWS are contemplating removing Barred owls to boost Northern spotted owl numbers. Overall, northern spotted owl numbers have been declining 2.9% on average per year - leading to an estimated 40% decline in numbers over the last 25 years. The presumed causes of the decline are the continuing effects of lost old growth forest habitat prior to the 1990s and increasing competition from the barred owl.

Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe said "We can't ignore the mounting evidence that competition from barred owls is a major factor in the spotted owl's decline, and we have a clear obligation to do all we can to prevent the spotted owl's extinction and help it rebound," said Ashe. 

If the barred owl removal experiment proceeds and the effects of removal are positive, the USFWS may consider the feasibility and efficacy of barred owl removal on a broader scale. 

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