Plan to cull 500,000 barred owls in the United States

Barred owls have a wingspan of 4 feet and grow to 2 feet in length. They are native to the eastern United States and they can be relatively aggressive. However, since the early 1900s they have steadily moved westward encroaching into the western states of Washington, Oregon and California. The reason? To find habitat in which to live because it’s been destroyed in the East.

The barred owl competes for the same food as their smaller cousins, the northern spotted owl. And because the barred owl has moved West they are now in competition with a northern spotted owl.

Barred owl looking aggressive
Barred owl looking aggressive. This is an AI image not a photo.

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Because of that, the United States government wants to kill nearly 500,000 of them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have released a proposal in which hunters track and cull hundreds of thousands of barred owls in the American north-west over the next 30 years. They want to entice them out into the open with broadcasts of their territorial calls and then shoot them out of the sky.

As you might expect, the plan has provoked outrage from animal welfare, wildlife protection groups and animal advocates of all kinds.

In a recent letter to President Biden’s secretary of interior, Deb Haaland, 75 organisations warned that the plan is reckless and that it could have disastrous consequences.

For example, they claim that other owl species, hawks and eagles will become collateral damage because they might be shot by mistake or poisoned by fragments of toxic lead ammunition.

The barred owl’s westward spread has coincided with increased threats to the northern spotted owl’s habitat. In fact, in 1990 they were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This means that they must be protected by the authorities.

Not all animal advocates and conservationists are against the mass killing of barred owls. For instance, Birds Connect Seattle have submitted that while northern spotted owls have not been seen in the city in living memory, but regular sightings of barred owls have attracted birdwatchers.

They say that humans are responsible for bringing the two owl species together into conflict. And they add that “Tragically, the birds will be made to suffer the consequences”.

A final decision about the culling of this owl species will be made later in 2024 after all public submissions have been scrutinised. Submissions ended in January.

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Post Category: Birds > owls