NewsCulling plan for 450,000 barred owls sparks fierce debate

Culling plan for 450,000 barred owls sparks fierce debate

450,000 Strix varia owls are to be culled in the United States.
450,000 Strix varia owls are to be culled in the United States.
Images source: © Wikipedia
Bartłomiej Nowak

6 July 2024 07:24

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has unveiled a plan to cull approximately 450,000 barred owls. The operation aims to save another species of owl, the spotted owl. This idea has met with significant opposition from animal welfare organisations. The substantial cost of the planned operation is also contentious.

The FWS has proposed its plan to cull about 450,000 barred owls. The plan involves an annual culling of 0.5 per cent of this species over the next 30 years.

The justification is the rapid reproduction of larger barred owls. They are appearing across almost the entire United States. Consequently, another species of owl—the spotted owl—is threatened.

Barred owl management is not about one owl versus another. Without actively managing barred owls, northern spotted owls will likely go extinct in all or the majority of their range, despite decades of collaborative conservation efforts - said Kessina Lee, FWS inspector of Oregon.

The FWS's plans have met with overwhelming criticism from animal welfare organisations in the U.S. Besides the significant ethical concerns, the main argument against the plan is the cost of implementation, estimated at £193 million. Organisations emphasise that this is one of history's most expensive endangered species management projects.

Every sensible person wants to save spotted owls from extinction, but strategies that kill a half-million look-alike forest owls must be taken off the table in violating our norms about proper treatment of any native owl species in North America - said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.

If the plan is accepted, trained specialists and landowners, on whose properties barred owls and spotted owls coexist, will be able to shoot the former freely. The FWS stipulates, however, that hunting barred owls will not be allowed.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is turning from protector to persecutor of American wildlife. Its plan is wildly expensive without protecting a single acre of forest habitat, and it is doomed to fail because there’s no way for the agency to prevent surviving owls from recolonizing nest sites - summed up Pacelle.
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