Activist Corner

Poem: The Rage of the Barred Owl

Barred owl
Barred owl

By Ellen E. Taylor,
Lost Coast League

When Moon unmasks your naked face
And gilds your gun with diamonds green
I mark your progress from afar.
You stumble toward my roosting place,
Studying your tiny screen,
Tracking an artificial star.

You killed my wife some dawns ago,
Fooled by your telescopic sight:
She was a Northern Spotted Owl!
You threw her feathers in the snow
No measurements of weight or height:
Bars or spots, murder most foul!

Management stalks through the trees
Plying the Endangered Species Act
And shifting its dynamic core.
We will be gone when, by degrees
The soil will sicken, parched and cracked:
Then fire, desert, nothing more.

I, Owl, now curse your species’ birth:
No Permit comes from Mother Earth.

Background: Barred Owls have been migrating to the North Coast for decades. As a less specialized species than the Northern Spotted Owl, they have been able to move successfully into the habitat of this old-growth-dependent and endangered species. Previously, the decline or “poor population performance” of the Northern Spotted Owl was blamed on the disappearance of old and mature forests. But now the guilt has settled on the Barred Owl, who interbreeds with the Northern Spotted Owl and is therefore accused of “genetic swamping” along with habitat invasion. So, shooting Barred Owls has been accepted as a mitigation for cutting down more ancient forest. Hence, the Barred Owl’s rage.