Owls Through the Haze

At first glance this article in a forthcoming issue of Avian Conservation and Ecology about increased mortality of the endangered Northern Spotted Owl from rat poison doesn’t seem to indicate a political angle, at least not from the dense abstract. You just need to wade through it a bit to the payoff toward the end:

Exposure to rodenticides in Northern Spotted and Barred Owls on remote forest lands in northwestern California: evidence of food web contamination

Abstract

The documentation of anticoagulant rodenticides (AR) in nontarget species has centered around wildlife that inhabit urban or agricultural settings. However, recent studies in California have shown that AR use in remote forest settings has escalated and has exposed and killed forest carnivores. Anticoagulant rodenticides have been documented as physiological stressors for avian species. Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) critical and occupied habitat overlaps the areas where these studies occurred, yet no data were previously available to demonstrate whether this species was similarly affected. We investigated whether avian predators are also exposed to these specific pesticides and whether Barred Owls (Strix varia) may be a surrogate to indicate exposure rates in Northern Spotted Owls. We documented that 70% of Northern Spotted Owls and 40% of Barred Owls were exposed to one or more anticoagulant rodenticides. None of the rodent prey species sampled within the study area were positive for ARs. There were no spatial clusters for either low or high rates of exposure, though we detected low temporal trend early on throughout the study area. We hypothesize a recent change in land-use toward marijuana cultivation may have led to the increased use of AR in this area. This study demonstrates environmental contamination within occupied Northern Spotted Owl habitat and that Barred Owls can be used as adequate surrogates for detecting these pollutants in a rare species such as the Northern Spotted Owl. Furthermore, additional studies should focus on whether these pesticides are also affecting prey availability for these forest avian species.

So in other words, the stoners are killing Spotted Owls deliberately. Another fabulous milestone for the progressive agenda. I wonder if there will be a pot equivalent of “dolphin-free tuna”?

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