Parts of North America are seeing an enormous influx of irrupting Snowy Owls this winter. One of the Arctic’s most iconic birds, huge numbers of birders have been travelling to see these beautiful white ‘ghosts’ from the frozen north. Cornell University has even created an online ‘resource’ for any bloggers wanting to write about them.
But this is the US, where conservation and the gun seem to go hand in hand for many government departments (the unbelievably destructive Federal agency the Wildlife Services leads the way, killing well over a million animals a year – see eg here and here) and of course nothing must stop the wheels of industry and commerce turning. Not everyone was pleased to see the Owls ‘on their patch’ but rather than find ways to remove or relocate the Owls, agencies once again reached for their guns. This week reports emerged that the New York Port Authority ‘wildlife specialists’ had been ordered to hunt snowy owls at New York City’s airports.
Devin Hefferon quickly set up a petition to demand an alternative way to stop owls being sucked into aircraft engines on Change.org with the following text:
Snowy Owls travel thousands of miles south each winter from the Canadian tundra where they spend the spring and summer. They are often temporary visitors to airports(urban tundra) along their route south. Airports like Boston’s Logan International have a fantastic and successful history of trapping and re-releasing these magnificent animals away from the dangers of the airport. It has been reported by NBC that ” The Port Authority’s “wildlife specialists” started exterminating the owls Saturday, killing three at JFK Airport with a shotgun.” The senseless slaughter of the what is arguably one of our most charismatic and beautiful birds is truly deplorable. There are clearly other effective methods for managing these birds that are being ignored. This practice must be stopped immediately. We ask The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to seek other proven non-lethal methods for ensuring the safety of air traffic and the Snowy Owl.
Learn more about Mass Audubon’s Snowy Owl Project here: http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/blue-hills/snowy-owl-project
Just hours later he was able to report that:
- “Thanks to everyone who has signed this petition. After 7 hours and over 3,200 signatures, the latest report is that the Port Authority has agreed to work with the Department of Environmental Conservation to relocate Snowy Owls captured at NY/NJ airports. This is great news!
I suggest we all keep the pressure on and follow through to make sure that this issue stays fresh in everyone’s minds. Every year we fragment habitat more and more. Many stewards are fighting to restore and protect that habitat. Meanwhile, the least the rest of us can do is allow these magnificent animals to coexist along side us. There are proven methods for dealing with a conflict like this and the Port Authority’s solution of shooting the Owls was barbaric, antiquated, and idiotic. We need to take a stand and demand that the more expensive and more involved solution to perceived problems like this not be ignored or discounted.”
“…the Port Authority’s solution of shooting the Owls was barbaric, antiquated, and idiotic”: I couldn’t have put it much better myself, but I would also have added “and typical of a culture where animal ‘problems’ are increasingly being ‘solved’ by killing them”.
We’ve all been on that slippery slope for a very long time now, and given that some conservationists in the US routinely argue that killing wildlife is a justifiable solution to human-wildlife conflicts, I suspect we’ll see much more of this sort of “barbaric, antiquated, and idiotic” behaviour in the coming years.