Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Endangered vs "Invasive" Species

Last Sunday I was driving from Chapel Hill North Carolina to Cape Hatteras, a beautiful blue sky ahead, the faint smell of smoke from a distant forest fire coming through the air vents, and NPR's Weekend Edition on the radio.

The story had to do with the infamous Spotted Owl, the darling of every tree-hugger in the northwest, and the nemesis of every logger. Turns out that the little critter has begun to accomodate itself to more populated areas - good news - however, now another problem has developed in the little bugger's life.  The Barred Owl is pushing into its territory.  As I listened to the commentator I heard the Barred Owl described as an eastern species that the speaker is claiming as invasive in the northwest.  This took me back a bit.  I understood that invasive species were brought into an area by some human action, either intentional or accidental, and then went wild.

As far as I could determine from what I was hearing, the Barred Owl simply migrated into the area looking for a better home.  That sounds to me like nature at work, not an invasion.

Inevitably, the question came up, "What do we do about it?"  Some official in some government environmental protection office said that the only way to control the "invasion" is to begin shooting the invader, a process that was scheduled to start in 2012.

Shoot one owl to save another?  Doesn't make sense to me.

Finally, however, a naturalist in the area was asked about the idea.  His response,  "Shooting them won't do much good because as soon as you stop, they'll be back.  I think the best thing to do is leave both species alone and let them work it out."  I love that idea.  Humanity keeping its hands off something.  Great thought.  Not gonna happen.

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