Throughout history, people have regarded owls as mysterious and fascinating creatures of the night. Only few other animals have so many superstitious beliefs about them. Some cultures feared them, while others admired them. With most of the superstitions dying out in the 20th century, they again represent the symbol of wisdom but are still not completely safe.
If they were in the past being killed because they were associated with death, they are nowadays facing a completely different threat. Biologists are killing one species considered as the “bully” to save another species that is facing extinction.
The so-called bully owls are the barred owls, known to pick on the smaller northern spotted owl
This was not always the case since the barred owl gradually came to California from the eastern United States, competing with the spotted owl for food, space and habitat. The northern spotted owl has really taken a hard blow in the past years with their population falling each year by around 12% in the most critical areas.
Biologist Lowell Diller came up with a plan to save the endangered owl species. In 2009, he set aside patches of timberland to remove barred owls. In other patches, he did nothing. After four years, he found that in the areas without barred owls, northern spotted owls are no longer declining. Diller has now pulled the trigger on barred owls more than 100 times in the forests of Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
However, some conservationists aren’t sure about the approach taken towards saving the endangered owls
According to them, old-growth habitat destruction is to blame for pitting the two owls against each other. It is known that northern spotted owl need old growth trees to nest and if we continue to cut them down, no matter how many invasive species are killed, the situation will still not change. Therefore, killing one species is not the right solution, since it is only short-term. For a more long-term solution, habitat restoration should play the main role.