Not in the deep woods, but on a quiet suburban street, a Northern Spotted Owl is wintering here in Jackson County. No doubt this bird is taking out a quota of mice and rats every night then sleeping in the daytime as is the wont of his kind. One observer found an owl pellet beneath the daytime perch, small rodent skeletal remains were therein. Perhaps only the gray wolf had more enemies than the Spotted Owl. Animals that are thrust into the midsat of bitter conservation battles often become targets of hatred from humans who insist their rights trump those of any mere creature without an opposable thumb, or a gun. Because of this bird’s precarious political and social status, is whereabouts remains unpublished. But relish these photos taken on a sunny day in the shade of a dense pine.
There are three races of Spotted Owl: Northern, California and Mexican. Because of its symbolic involvement in battles over forest preservation and logging practices on private and public lands, the Spotted Owl has become a creature of controversy and focused hatred from some political groups. Last year the US government set aside some forest lands for the owl’s protection even though the population of Spotted Owl has continued to drop.
How strong is the antipathy toward the owl and its survival among certain political persuasions? Here’s one email response to the announcement that the feds are trying to protect the owl by closing some forest to exploitation: “God, this stinks of AGENDA 21. This exactly what the feds will do
nudge by nudge until they own all the land. (look at the published
map of what the US will look like under AGENDA 21). This is pure
communism, a few thousand acres would more than enough for
the owls, but why would they need protection anyway. They either
make it or they don’t, just like us.”
That translates to “log, baby, log,” plus the added fillip of the Agenda 21 paranoia that has infected certain far-right fantasies.
And here’s how the Heartland folks see it: the Barred Owl is to blame for the Spotted Owls problems. Never nind that Barred Owls succeed where man changes the habitat.
BANDED? Today’s owl is a frist year bird and it was perched such that I could not see the legs to tell if the bird had been banded. Here’s a note from Jim Harper whose spent decades studying the rsaptors and owls of Oregon’s forests:
“The white pointed tail tips indicated that this is a young-of-this-year. Second-summer birds are white tip with rounded border. Adult plumage has a more mottled tail tip. If you ever see it stretch a leg, it might have a plastic tarsus band. If it had been banded, the color would be red-white-red stripe. All juvys get that color. Then when the bird settles on a territory, its recaptured and given a more site-specific color band (solid, stripe, dot, dash, squares, etc). Once the bird gets a final color band, it can be identified as an individual without having to recapture it in subsequent years to read its USFWS numbered aluminum band. We’ve had local juveniles wander as far as 40 miles from their natal area, but most stay within 6-10 miles. We started the local banding program in 1985, but due to budget cuts, the effort to band spotted owls has tapered way back in the last decade. We’ve had some resightings up to 12 years after the original banding.”
The Spotted Owl is Strix occidentalis. I tshares a gensu with Barred Owlm, Great Gray, the abundant Tawny Owl of Europe and more than a dozedn other species found in either the Old World or the New. That includes the three species of Wood-Owl found in Asia.