Feds to shoot barred owls to save spotted owls

Would you kill an owl to save another owl? It’s not a thought experiment from your Intro to Ethics class: Northern spotted owls — the feathered poster children of last decade’s timber wars — are dwindling in the Pacific Northwest, and bigger, more aggressive barred owls, which have migrated to the region from Canada’s Great Plains, are being blamed for at least part of the decline. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning an experimental hunt of barred owls in California to see if picking off a few will encourage spotted owls to return to their nests. Though timber-industry reps are playing up the role of the barred owl in the spotted owl’s decline, experts point out that logging, wildfire, and West Nile virus are also contributors. Some 59,000 acres of spotted-owl forest habitat were logged between 1996 and 2004, according to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife researcher. The U.S. FWS announced this week that it will draw up a recovery plan for the spotted owl; a draft is due next year.