Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Owl Prowl: Great greys + the BAIT DEBATE (#233)

Back when I started birding, I heard these legendary tales of "the year the great greys came through."  Gosh darn it all, I said to myself, why couldn't I have picked up this hobby one year earlier?!?! Even their Latin name, Strix Nebulosa, adds to the majestic allure surrounding them. So I was more than ecstatic when I heard the first reports that they might be back after four years. Just to give some background, Great Grey Owls are not native to our area. They are northern birds that will travel south if there is a shortage food--so while it's a treat for us to see them, it is not for the owls because desperate measures have caused them to come our way. At 27", they are massive and our largest owl.

We tried Huntmar and March Valley roads first in an attempt to find them in the west end, closer to home, but no dice. So we made the trek out to the other end of our particularly wide city on Saturday afternoon--since we are far west and this is far east, that made 32km each way, totalling 60km. We parked at P8 and walked back along Rockcliffe Parkway to the trailhead. There were several people there and lenses and scopes aimed at the targets. It wasn't long until someone kindly pointed out the grey blob in the tree for us. Unfortunately the sun was on the wrong side of things (if I had known, I would have come in the morning), so I took what shots I could at ISO1600 and we decided to revisit in the morning, making the total driving over the course of the weekend 120 km. I'm not much of a chaser and this is a pretty far trek for a bird alone, but it's nowhere near the travel time for other people we met in the field from Boston and Pennsylvania.

Armed with my latest acquisition, I was pretty pleased with the results but I still need to really get used to it, especially the focus. On the way out, I happened to see Bob Boisvert, friend and TC photo club founder, although we didn't have time to talk as it was getting darker and he still hadn't seen the birds. Actually, it was nice to meet several people there, from both close and afar, including Dorian Anderson and Clyde Drodge.

#233: Great Grey Owl; Green's Creek (Orleans, Ottawa); January 26, 2013
*unbaited* Matt got this shot!
On Sunday, up at 6 am, on the road at 6:30 am and in the parking lot at 7 am. This time we were among the first there. Dorian, who we'd met the day before, was waiting for us and we made our way to the field. One owl was perched very near to were it had been the day before, and we waited for the sun to rise and bask it in a warm yellow glow.
*unbaited* and coincidentally, my favourite shot. Notice the white "bowtie" under its face.


It didn't take too long for the hordes to arrive. It was somewhat akin to when an Asian tour bus stops and all of a sudden you are surrounded by chaos and cameras. Again, not being a bird chaser, I wasn't used to this and it wasn't long before these owls became a total spectacle.  At one point, it became so absurd that I stopped taking photos of the owls and started taking pictures of the people taking pictures of the owls...
the crowd and more people arriving

It was not long until the mice started flying either. This was my first time witnessing baiting of owls (I had only seen evidence of it before on Amherst) and I have really mixed feelings about it. I don't think I can write this post without being fully transparent about it. So here comes...

 *THE BAIT DEBATE*

I hate for this discussion to detract from such a marvelous bird, but I do want to take some time to address an important topic. *clambering up onto soapbox* And y'all know I can hardly write a post without making some kind of statement. I'm probably going to be ruffling some feathers (ahem) but I'm okay with that if it means raising a little awareness, but really, I am not trying to offend anybody. And this is a especially difficult because I think everyone really does mean well.


photographers left, owl right

Does this manner of attracting birds detract from the authenticity? I think so. I also think that if that's how you got your shots, you should openly say so instead of being misleading about it. You could have gotten the same shot if you had more patience and became familiar with bird behaviour and put the time in. So you can spend either 200 hours in the field with a blind and a whole lot of coffee and toe warmers or just 2 if you choose this route.

I've intentionally kept any shots that involved baiting separate.  In my mind, they don't belong with the rest. In fact, I even kind of cringe putting my name to them, now that I think about it.

Did I throw any mice? No.
Did I take shots when a mouse was thrown and an owl swooped in for the kill? Absolutely.
Was I excited to see an owl in action? Of course I was.
Opportunistic? Maybe.
What do you do when you witness this? Have at it with someone in the field? Walk away? No easy answer there.


I want to talk about the picture directly above. At first I thought it was really neat to have the (poor, doomed) mouse in the shot (even if it's half out of the frame), and I even got some with the owl holding the mouse in its beak, and eventually swallowing it, tail last.

AND THEN I realized how ridiculous this is and what a giveaway it is. Do you think we have white mice running around her in Ottawa? Helllls no. This is exactly what does NOT happen in nature. If this shot was authentic the owl would be after a little brown field mouse or maybe a star-nosed mole. Not a lab rat!

This matter has been debated before and will certainly continue to be debated as the accessibility of digital cameras and long lenses increases. As internet postings go up, so do the numbers of observers. As lenses and cameras get cheaper, so does the number of "photographers" (guilty as charged on both counts). The more someone gets the idea of throwing mice around/playing recordings on the their ipods, the more this escalates into chaos. I think a problem starts to develop when the birds are exposed to this every day because every photographer wants that shot, and more often than not, several shots because one good one is never enough. It starts to mess with their survival instincts.

It's difficult, since on the one side you have fierce opposers and on the other, people who are like, "what's the big deal?" There are a lot of arguments that I've seen for either side:
  • FOR: you fill feeders for birds, how is this any different?
  • FOR: if they came this far south, they had to be starving, so we're helping right? 
  • AGAINST: the mice from the store could have diseases and make the owls sick. they would not eat these in the wild.
  • AGAINST: the mice could escape, are ill-adapted to survive and may even upset the natural fauna
  • AGAINST: the practice puts the birds in jeopardy as they become habituated to humans
  • AGAINST: we should avoid placing any undue stress on a bird--would taking advantage of a starving bird by tempting it to approach humans within a few feet and essentially cornering it not qualify as such?
  • AGAINST: Owls are camouflaged for a reason. Drawing them out into the open makes them susceptible to mobbing by crows, for example.
  • just google "baiting owls" and you'll find many more arguments.
I welcome any comments below.
I could also talk about the grey/gray debate, but I won't...this isn't a grammar blog, after all :)  
Great Grey Owl imprint
On that note, I think I'm very happy with the looks and the photos I took and won't be venturing out to the east end again for the greys--I plan to let them be. I consider myself so very lucky to have finally seen Great Greys and I hope that they stay safe and survive this winter so they can go back to their homes. Here's to a stunningly beautiful and majestic #233, Strix Nebulosa.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also was there with my fiancee on Saturday, and then again alone on Sunday to see these fantastic creatures. This was our first experience seeing owls, and to be honest the excitement was somewhat lost in that they were basically advertised and to be seeing them alongside a crowd of people. This is not to say that to see such a rare bird was not exciting as it was, however I think in it I do prefer the more intimate settings of nature and birding. Sunday was my first experience seeing "baiting", and though yes I did capitalize and get some great photos, it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth while leaving. Some would call it cheating, others find it unfair to the owls. I have come to find that I may be one of those people. I think that we are taking away from the owls coming here for a reason and that we may forcefully cause them to come back not on their own accord. I am inclined to say that I disagree with "baiting" and I would highly recommend we appreciate nature for what it is when it is. The photos you have are absolutely beautiful however, and it was a pleasure meeting you. I look forward to following your blog and perhaps some day exchanging photos and stories. All the best. Happy Birding.

Joey

Anonymous said...

The difference between feeders and baiting is that there is no definite correlation to taking action shots of feeder birds and feeders. Feeders are there to attract birds, sure. However it is not disturbing the birds to put feeders out. They either find it and eat it or they pass over. The selectively go out and find one (or three in this case) and target the birds for action shots makes the difference. The owls were found first and then targeted with baiting while feeders, the birds come to you. Birding is a passive sport, bird photography is an agressive endeavor for some.

Anonymous said...

While we humans debate, maybe we should ask what the owl wants? They are down here for one reason and one reason only. They are looking for sustenance because they cannot find enough up north.

It can't be fun to be forced to fly thousands of kilometers away from home in order to just survive. Here, we humans are already complaining about having to drive 60 kilometers in a day just to glimpse these majestic birds.

While we humans argue what is best for the birds, has anyone stopped to ask what the owls want? I know the answer already.

I have observed the owls there hunting on their own. In 4 attempts I think the one owl came up empty-handed.

I feel fairly certain the owls at that location will survive the cold winter and fly back north this Spring to progenate more of their kind. Starvation is one of the main reasons these owls do not make it back north. Another is collison with vehicles but the owls at that location are well away from any road which also makes it an ideal location to view them. Enjoy the owls while they are here.

Anonymous said...

(Forgive my english, I am from Gatineau)

I also went to Green's Creek to get a glimpse of these rare birds.

What struck me as completly unconceivable is that most people there seem much more interested in getting THE shot than observing these magnificent animals.

I must say that there is no debate for me when it comes to baiting. It is a BIG no no!! So when I heard people were baiting, I sent the info to the CCN (who owns the land at Green's Creek). Their reply was in part this:

''In response to your correspondence, we wish to inform you that, in accordance with the National Capital Commission Regulations as well as with the Ontario Provincial Regulations, there are no existing laws prohibiting the practice of feeding or baiting owls with mice.

Our Conservation Officers, in consultation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), advise us that feeding owls with mice is not dangerous to the birds.

Although this practice may make the owls more comfortable around humans, the benefit of receiving food during the harsh winter months outweighs the risk of people approaching the birds to observe them and to take their pictures. Feeding the birds a food already found in their natural environment does not have any effect on their digestive system.

The practice of feeding the owls could have a negative impact if spread over an extended period of time. This would results in the birds loosing their ability to hunt on their own.

We thank you for taking the time to share your observations with us and rest assured that we will continue to closely monitor this situation.''

I was shocked!! I find it surprising that the NCC and the OMNR have an approach where direct interactions (such as feeding) with these rare birds is taken so lightly. Many incidents with fed owls have led to them being killed on roadways because of their familiarity with humans... Also, popular owls such as the ones at Rockliffe Parkway get fed much more than what would be considered a normal diet. Problematic overweight has been observed in snowy and great gray owls in the past with a female snowy found in a field last year that was overweight by approx 1 kg!!! She could'nt fly anymore and had to be put on a diet before being released back to the wild.

Also, owl movements are triggered mostly by food availability. Baiting and feeding owls intensively might make them stay in an area that isn't suitable for them anymore. What happens when people stop feeding??

I think the best course of action when witnessing baiting is confronting the culprits and making sure they understand how selfish the gesture is. Then walk away, people that are against but stay and take pictures are complicit in my opinion.

It is a priveledge to observe these wild animals and great care should be taken to insure that we have as little an impact as possible with them when observing.

I feel that favoring an approach where people interact as little as possible with wildlife is the most secure and most benefecial approach in the long term for both wildlife and nature enthusiast.

Bird feeders are totally different like mentionned previously in your blog post. Plus bird feeders actually fit with how many granivorous birds were programmed. That is, finding an available food source, like a tree in fruit or seed and exploiting it to the max while the resource is there. When the resource is gone, move on...

Wow, I think I'm done...

Thank you,

Nicholas Bertrand, Biologist

Anonymous said...

As a biologist Nicolas I would assume you know why these owls have come south from their usual area. They were starving. Almost 90% of the northern owls are on the edge of starvation by the time they get here.

Nicolas, let me put it too you this way. Photographers probably do far more observing of the owls than the vast majority of "Birder" ever do. We look for signs of when they will fly, when they are uncomfortable in a situation and when we are too close. We do not rush to fill out our daily check list of what we observe like most birders.

"The practice of feeding the owls could have a negative impact if spread over an extended period of time. This would results in the birds loosing their ability to hunt on their own."

this must be a statement you added. Because these birds do not forget how to hunt. They are hunting and using their eyes and ears whether a person puts a rodent on the ground or God Does. I have observed them hunting many times and it is the exact same thing as when they take a domestic mouse.

Gray Owls stop feeding when they are full.

"What happens when people stop feeding??"

Really? You are asking this question. Here is the answer in your own words. "Also, owl movements are triggered mostly by food availability" So what do you think will happen. They will move on to another location.

By the way, Great Gray Owls are not rare. If you were a real biologist you would know this. Also if you were a biologist, how do you do your branch of biology without actually interacting with what you are studying.

"Bird feeders are totally different like mentionned previously in your blog post. Plus bird feeders actually fit with how many granivorous birds were programmed. That is, finding an available food source, like a tree in fruit or seed and exploiting it to the max while the resource is there. When the resource is gone, move on... "

Really ??? again with this thinking, it can be totally applied to the owls. They feed on rodents and they are being fed rodents. You put out domestic seed for small birds, how is that any different than domestic rodents for owls. The owls don't leave because of a lack of food as there are wild rodents down here during the summer. It's their necessity to mate that takes them back north. There is nothing that is going to stop them from that. If food source was the issue they would be here all year.

You also might want to check around and see just how many other species of owls are dying in numbers due to lack of food. But I guess it is better to see them starve than to feed them while they are down here.

deepdowndawn said...

Wow, this post has elicited some strong reactions. I appreciate everyone's comments, and thank you Nicolas for sharing the NCC and OMNR responses. Just a reminder to all to please keep the dialogue constructive and respectful. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

''As a biologist Nicolas I would assume you know why these owls have come south from their usual area. ''

Yep, and they've been doing this for 1 000 of years yet you think they need help?

''We look for signs of when they will fly, when they are uncomfortable in a situation and when we are too close.''

If you do it this way, good for you! But this is not what I observed when I was there. I observed at least 15-20 people trying to photograph and feed an owl that had flew into the woods AWAY from people. The owl had fled about 30 min before I got there and people were still swinging mouse around. Talk about reading signs!?

"The practice of feeding the owls could have a negative impact if spread over an extended period of time. This would results in the birds loosing their ability to hunt on their own."

This is copy pasted from the NCC e-mail.

''Gray Owls stop feeding when they are full.''

Maybe they shouldn't be full? After all, when humans are not there to feed them lab mice, they have to work to find food. I'm not saying every owl that is baited gets overweight, I'm saying it is a possible problem that HAS been observed before.

''Really? You are asking this question. Here is the answer in your own words. "Also, owl movements are triggered mostly by food availability" So what do you think will happen. They will move on to another location.''

No need to be condescending. Here is my theory. The owls have been fed by humans for the last 2 months. Overtime people stop, what happens? The owls still see humans, but no more food... The source is still there, why is there no more food? What makes you think they'll automatically start go back to wondering the wilderness to find their quarry when they've been mouth fed for the last two months?

''By the way, Great Gray Owls are not rare. If you were a real biologist you would know this. Also if you were a biologist.''

Well, I'm glad you think they are not rare, but they are by far not a common bird! It's not because there is a dozen of birds in the Ottawa area that they can be considered common.

''how do you do your branch of biology without actually interacting with what you are studying''

Of course there are interactions when biologist study wildlife. Banding, GPS-tracking, etc. Nothing to do with feeding them for extended periods of time.

''Really ??? again with this thinking, it can be totally applied to the owls.''

No, it is not the same thing. Simply because a lot of owls come to associate man and food. Again, I'm not saying it is the case with every owl, but it has been observed many many times! Baiting owls can compared to feeding chickadees in your hands, or giving bread clumps to ducks. Have you ever been to the beaver trail at Stony Swamp? You literally get mobed by chickadees!!

''You also might want to check around and see just how many other species of owls are dying in numbers due to lack of food. But I guess it is better to see them starve than to feed them while they are down here.''

Yes, I think it is better to let them starve. Owl populations fluctuate just like any other animal. That's how nature works.

The thing you fail to understand is that I'm not saying every owl that is baited is going to be ran over by a car or whatever other problem. But the risk is there, and based on a lot of documented case, it is far from being low! Like with any other animal, an approach where human interaction is as little as possible is the way to go.

But hey, this is just my opinion, whatever makes you sleep better at night!

Nicholas B

Anonymous said...

“No need to be condescending. Here is my theory. The owls have been fed by humans for the last 2 months. Overtime people stop, what happens? The owls still see humans, but no more food... The source is still there, why is there no more food? What makes you think they'll automatically start go back to wondering the wilderness to find their quarry when they've been mouth fed for the last two months? “

The owls down here have not been raised in captivity. They know how to hunt. They made it all the way down here to our region did they not? Mind you, not all may be in the best of shape by the time they reach our area. Quite a number of owls that have moved southward in past irruption years have been found to be near starvation. Such was the case with a large movement of snowy owls down here and western Quebec a few years ago. Depending on conditions, finding enough food may not be easy. Our region has experienced quite a mix of weather over the past several weeks from near -30*C wind chill to a recent melt and then a refreeze which have created a deep icy crust on top of whatever snow is below. In addition, I hear some mention that this winter there have not been many raptors seen in the area and surmise that this may be due to a lack of rodents. The owls keep moving until they find a location that has a good source of food. Owls I have observed in the past that have been fed by people over the course of several months, have all left to fly back north when the time comes and instincts tell them to. Mind you, many people would like to see them around longer but that just hasn’t happened with the rarest of exceptions like in anything else.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas B wrote: "Yes, I think it is better to let them starve."

Well, all I can say is that I'm glad not everyone thinks like that.

Anonymous said...

Link to an article on starving owls. It is from the Kingston, Ontario area involving barred owls.

There is another article online regarding the snowy owls in Boundary Bay which are facing a similar situation.

http://www.thewhig.com/2013/01/31/owl-population-struggling-to-survive

Anonymous said...

You are all still missing the point that these and other northern owls have been migrating like this for thousands of years!

They have met bad weather before! There has been population crash before!

You say that owls you have observed in the past that have been fed by people over the course of several months, have all left to fly back north when the time comes and instincts tell them to.

Yet, I fail to understand how you know that they flew north and successfully lived on to procreate. Once these owls leave, we have no way of knowing where they are and how they thrive.

On the other side, there are plenty of examples of problems caused by owl feeding. Just talk to any rehab place like UQROP.

The decision seems simple. Let them do their thing. Do know what they are doing!!

Also, have you ever thought about the possibility of the mice infecting the animals with infectious disease? Deaths caused by bad rodents has also been documented in captive raptors.

When you weight all of this, you still feel that feeding them is the good decision? Then, I'm sorry but I don't understand!

Nicholas B.

Anonymous said...

"You say that owls you have observed in the past that have been fed by people over the course of several months, have all left to fly back north when the time comes and instincts tell them to.

Yet, I fail to understand how you know that they flew north and successfully lived on to procreate. Once these owls leave, we have no way of knowing where they are and how they thrive."


You know, there are still many people today who do not believe man actually went to the moon. I suppose they believe only what they can see for themselves.

if I had the time and money, maybe I can drive up north with them. I think you'd be still wanting proof :-) Maybe you just happen to be the argumentative type and want to stir things up like you were encouraging others to do in your earlier post. Hey, to each their own. If that works for you.

Perhaps the owls are secretly hiding out down here over the summer months and come out of hiding in the winter. Yeah, that's it :-)

Just take my humor in good stride my friend. With comments like you posted above, maybe you are baiting me? Au revoir :-)

Anonymous said...

"Yep, and they've been doing this for 1 000 of years yet you think they need help?"

Yes, they have been doing it many have starved to death by not finding enough food. Which leads in to your other statement

"Yes, I think it is better to let them starve. Owl populations fluctuate just like any other animal. That's how nature works."

Do you say that top every person who puts out a feeder or peanuts for squirrels.

"Maybe they shouldn't be full? After all, when humans are not there to feed them lab mice, they have to work to find food. I'm not saying every owl that is baited gets overweight, I'm saying it is a possible problem that HAS been observed before."

You site one case of an overweight bird as your entire arguement. Over the many birds that have been fed and are not overweight? Also the owls are expending the same amount of energy when they fly down to get the mice. They hunt exactly the same way if a mouse is put out or a vole is running on the surface. But by having the mouse on the surface the owl does not have to punch through a possible crusted layer of snow or maybe hit a buried rock and fatally injuring themselves.

"No need to be condescending. Here is my theory. The owls have been fed by humans for the last 2 months. Overtime people stop, what happens? The owls still see humans, but no more food... The source is still there, why is there no more food? What makes you think they'll automatically start go back to wondering the wilderness to find their quarry when they've been mouth fed for the last two months?"

What makes me think they will go back to hunting on their own...that would be by field observation. I have seen them hunt when I am the only one there and I have seen them hunt when there are numerous photographers but no mice. A cat has been domesticated for a couple thousand years, put it outside and wee if it forgets how to hunt. An owl will not forget in a couple of months, they have been programmed over many millions of years.

"Well, I'm glad you think they are not rare, but they are by far not a common bird! It's not because there is a dozen of birds in the Ottawa area that they can be considered common. "

Great Grays are found in a majority of Canada, Europe and Asia. http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Strix&species=nebulosa

"The thing you fail to understand is that I'm not saying every owl that is baited is going to be ran over by a car"

This is the rreason we do the feeding of the owl in the back field to make sure they do not get close to the road. We are just as concerned about the owls safety and anyone is. Keeping these birds healthy and safe is top priority.

As to the statement I often hear about disrupting nature. Everything humans do disrupts nature. The cities we build, the roads we drive on, the fields we grow our food on. All of this and more was taken from forested or field and turned into human use.

Anonymous said...

"Also, have you ever thought about the possibility of the mice infecting the animals with infectious disease? Deaths caused by bad rodents has also been documented in captive raptors."

OK, lets look at that. The ones that are from lab supply places are usually raised in very sterile conditions away from any rodent diseases. If they are to be used for lab testing any diseases would invalidate or change the outcome of an experiment.

The ones that are feeder mice for snakes, reptiles etc, are usually less prone to diseases compared to wild field rodents. Snake owners want a reliable source of untainted food.

The owls that have died from bad rodents is usually rodents that have fed on some type of poison or chemicals and this gets passed on to the feeding owls.

Anonymous said...

Good post. Interesting debate. I've been up there twice and admittedly have struggled with the whole issue of baiting. I am not a biologist and really don't know enough about the issue to render an educated opinion. I think the NCC letter is very useful. But I also recognize that two or three dozen people there at a time is not necessarily a good situation and I am sure not everyone exercises the same degree of restraint and respect. I avoided weekends simply to avoid that circus. I have no doubt that far more greivous things have been done to obtain the kind of wildlife pictures and films that wow people. Anyway, it's food for thought. Thank you for blogging on the issue in a reasonably fair and respectful manner.

Stephen Thorne
www.thornefoto.com

Anonymous said...

Everyone forgets one thing. Owls or any bird has wings. If they are bothered, it is as simple as flying away. Anywhere. Any distance. So, the fact they are there and remain there should tell you how the owls are doing.

Many of the arguments made against feeding owls are not based on facts or research but mostly it seems on hearsay, emotions and personal feelings.

Anonymous said...

The comment about owls forgetting how to hunt if fed while they are down here is laughable if it weren't sad that some actually believe it or at least want others to buy into it. I mean, c'mon. Let's use our common sense people.

Anonymous said...

Look at these photos of 2 and 3 great gray owls together. These may be from Petrie Island though.

http://www.rickdobsonphotography.com/p781156993

Anonymous said...

That surely confirm what I thought, that most birders would rather see these birds die from starvation than to see them fed by humans. This is really sick.

AS for bird feeders, it is MUCH worse then feeding owls with mice as you artificially create an environement in wich nice song birds are an easy prey especially for Cooper's and other hawks. I use to put feeders until I counted 3 instances of a cooper's eating a bird on my backyard tree within a week. So you think that you are helping those birds by putting up feeders? you are doing more harm than people feeding owls with mice!

Anonymous said...

"Also, have you ever thought about the possibility of the mice infecting the animals with infectious disease? Deaths caused by bad rodents has also been documented in captive raptors."


This does not make much sense since these birds have been fed petshop mice for months now and look at them. They are so healthy. Their feathers are shiny and fluffy, their eyes are bright and alert, their flight are swift and agile. All four of them are model of health. Not a single one has died from being fed raised mice.

Please stick to facts, not your own personnal opinion.

"On the other side, there are plenty of examples of problems caused by owl feeding. Just talk to any rehab place like UQROP"

You mention UCROP, but did you know that this organization is applying falconry principles and are starving their birds so that they will work each day in front of people???!! I personaly saw a young bald eagle attack its handler because he was starving too much and did not want to work, all he wanted was to eat. They had to bring that bird back in its cage and I was shocked that they did not feed it right away. Did you know they are are doing photo shooting for photographers for huge fee with their birds?

And I was absolutely shocked when I saw that they were giving frozen mice to their birds, frozen mice that had been unfrozen prior to the event. NO wonder they had problem with diseases! Some of these mice were being kept for as much as an hour during the daily "show" when they make the birds fly on top of poeple's heads acorss the field.

I much prefer to see a bird being fed by people in its natural setting being free to come or not and fly away as he see fit.

Many of UCROP's birds are perfectly capable of flying and hunting on their own, so why do they keep them in cage and make them work as circus performers? Why not rehabilitate and release these birds? I think you should investigate this instead of a situation where birds are free to come of go where they want.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious in the case of the Rockcliffe Parkway great gray owls that no harm has been done. I am almost certain the owls have benefitted greatly. So have the birdwatchers and photographers. There is a bit of give and take here.

People who follow the owls aroud (and not feeding them)are disturbing the owls. Every step you take in the snow makes a sound and this can disturb the owl's hearing as it hunts for prey or tries to rest. Even if you are far away. We know about their great hearing. I am not saying I am for or against feeding the owls but simply stating the obvious.

This is just one of those touchy issues and everyone has a side, be it either politics, religion, abortion, you name it.

Anonymous said...

To add to my comment directly above. Photographers don't go around harassing birders so why should birders (just a few so should not paint all birders with the same brush) go around to harass bird photographers?

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs on a matter. Just respect that. To try and enforce or impose your own viewpoint on someone else is rude, aggressive, harassment and going to inflame the situation even more rather than helping it.

Let's all try and get along.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting about this. I am opposed to owl baiting for many reasons, including the ones you've cited here -- debated in the comments. One factor never brought up is the idea of animal cruelty for the sake of a photograph. I imagine the other commenters here would have a disdainful view of someone like me who questions the use of live animals for entertainment purposes. As a former wildlife rehabilitator, I am not naive to the realities of predator survival. But these situations are clearly for human amusement. And I find it distressing that anyone can enjoy the process of releasing a terrified, living creature in such a manner for their own personal desires. The disregard we humans sometimes have for the sentience of other species is heartbreaking to me. To deliberately put an animal in harm's way for the sake of your photography is a very low benchmark for field ethics.

deepdowndawn said...

Thanks for your comment to the last poster. I'm a vegetarian--I'm surprised I didn't mention your argument in the first place--maybe it was just too obvious. We are currently experiencing a large number of snowies in the area and the baiters are already at it. Very disappointing.

Karen Bills, Hancock Wildlife Foundation said...

Lengthy article written by David Hancock, wildlife biologist, in response to this owl feeding situation can be found on the Hancock Wildlife Foundation website here:

http://www.hancockwildlife.org/article.php/ReControversyOfFeedingOwls