Thursday, March 22, 2007

Idaho's Mysterious Barn Owl Massacres

Recently I was in Twin Falls, Idaho, and was shocked to discover dead crows everywhere. They appeared to have been poisoned, though I suppose west nile is a possibility. A Twin Falls resident told me that the County or City was actively poisoning the crows due to overpopulation in Twin. Apparently the crows were annoying the humans, and you know what that means..someone comes up with the bright idea of killing them. Nice. Too bad for the crows though, or any dogs or cats who happen to eat the dead birds before their owners notice, or any other birds or animals who inadvertently consume the poison.

As I was heading home towards Boise I counted 15 dead barn owls in the median strip by the Interstate, and a dead hawk. I began to wonder if the poison was really killing birds of prey. I contacted Idaho Fish & Game for information, as well as the Idaho Birds of Prey Center. Certainly if humans were increasing the mortality of birds of prey via poison, I thought someone should look into it.

Fish& Game was nice enough to call me back. While they were not happy about the poisoning of crows, they also said it was not them doing it, and crows aren't protected so there is not much they can do. They are aware of the bird deaths along the interstate and they can't determine the cause yet.

I can see a few birds here and there but every few feet for a long ways I saw these dead barn owls. Apparently, this problem is being studied by a BSU biology professor, and I will be very interested in hearing his results. The owls are dying due to vehicle collisions, and in large numbers, and they are young. Why are they drawn to the Interstate? Why are so many dying? How will this impact populations long term? No one knows yet. But we can't rule out that poison may be entering and affecting the birds nervous systems, whether through pesticides or secondary poisoning from something like the crow killing spree.

You can read recent news articles on the subject here, here, and here. There is also an interesting article on mysterious bird deaths worldwide here.

Now, a note on the's been a bit slow this month, I apologize. It's less than a month until I trek off to Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya for what I hope is some excellent wildlife viewing. However, it comes at a price - working a lot of overtime to get the decks cleared so I can be gone for a few weeks. So, hopefully things will calm down and I can resume more regular posts, but not just yet.

Lastly, let me remind you it is not too late to get your comments into USFWS regarding wolf delisting and listing the polar bear as a protected species. Addresses for both can be foudn in the archive under each species.

No comments: