August 1, 2007

OWLS IS OWLS (via Brian Boys):

So much for saving the spotted owl (MICHAEL MILSTEIN, July 29, 2007, The Oregonian)

Two decades after the wrenching drive to save an obscure bird divided Oregonians, reshaped the economy and tore apart the political landscape, the northern spotted owl is disappearing anyway.

Even the most optimistic biologists now admit that the docile owl -- revered and reviled as the most contentious symbol the Northwest has known -- will probably never fully recover.

Intensive logging of the spotted owl's old-growth forest home threw the first punch that sent the species reeling. But the knockout blow is coming from a direction that scientists who drew up plans to save the owl didn't count on: nature itself.

The versatile and voracious barred owl is proving far more adept at getting rid of the smaller owl than the Endangered Species Act was in saving it:

Fewer than 25 spotted owls remain in British Columbia, the northern fringe of its range -- and where barred owls first moved into the West. Biologists say the best hope for Canada's spotted owls would be for zoos to capture and breed them, and perhaps someday return them to the wild.

Spotted owls are vanishing inside Olympic National Park, where logging never disturbed them. A biologist looking for them says it sometimes seems like searching for the long-lost ivory-billed woodpecker. Barred owl numbers, though, are "through the roof."

Researchers fitting owls with radio transmitters and tracking them west of Eugene are finding more barred owls in Oregon's woods than anyone realized. A few decades ago, no barred owls existed there; now they outnumber spotted owls more than 2-to-1.

"It looks like we may have really underestimated the number of barred owls," says David Wiens, a leader of the study based at Oregon State University.

Beginning by not including spotted owls in the count.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 1, 2007 7:30 PM

There's a mystery. Spotted owls are disappearing. I guess it's a whooo-dunit?

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 1, 2007 8:00 PM

survival of the fittest

Posted by: ic at August 1, 2007 8:45 PM

An eco-parable.

Posted by: ghostcat at August 1, 2007 9:33 PM

So is the whole eric-is-julia thing really just a metaphor for the sham of speciation?

Posted by: Palmcroft at August 2, 2007 11:14 AM

The Roberts is a genuinely separate species.

Posted by: oj at August 2, 2007 1:12 PM