3/04/2009

Owl baiting debate - readers' thoughts

I thought I'd share some excerpts of the thought-provoking discussion on the current topic of owl baiting. I'd love to hear what your thoughts are - please click here to add your comments.

Susan Gets Native: I LOVE that you opened this discussion, dude. Being personally involved with birds of prey, I have strong feelings about it. Owl baiting is a big mistake on too many fronts. Just looking at it from the mouse's point of view: Pet store mice are not "winter hardy", and if they manage to escape the talons of the owl, they are then subjected to dying from exposure. (we can't do live prey testing during the winter, because our mice are domesticated)… We have messed things up spectacularly already...why alter the behavior of these wonderful birds (that can get along just fine without us) just for a nice photo?... And "using the photos to encourage conservation and education (from one of the links)" is a big load of malarkey. If you are a professional photographer and you can't get a good pic of an owl who is just SITTING there, it's time to hang up the camera.
John: It would seem to me that the main concerns would be (a) endangering the bird by encouraging it to hang around unsafe places or (b) causing it to forget or not learn how to hunt on its own. For photography it is best to err on the side of caution if the answers to those questions are not known.

On the other hand, I have no problem with researchers using bait to band or otherwise study owls. The value of the data outweighs any potential harm, in my opinion.

Bird girl: There are people who freak out about using an ipod to call a bird. I didn't know people used bait to get better owl pictures. But I'll tell you I use mealworms to get better bluebird pictures and I LOVE it! Let's face it...it has to be a hassle to bait an owl - I'm sure it can be done responsibly. And don't think just because someone is a trusted member of the birding community that they can always be trusted. I was just reading a book last night which described a former president of a large birding organization who found a sleeping saw-whet in a shrub - took it to his house (several blocks away)and placed it on his Christmas tree where it slept all day!!! He then let it go at dusk - HOLY CRAP!

Larry Jordan: If you are a good photographer and know your subject, you don't need to bait. You just need to know where your subject will be and what their habits are. Then have patience.

Sam Webster:As a professional photographer and owl baiter I can appreciate both sides of the baiting issue.

No doubt baiting has created a lot of animosity between both groups. My belief is that baiting done responsibly does not harm an owl, in fact it may actually save an owls life.

The owls I bait are in remote areas and are not being baited by any other photographers. I limit my baitig to 3-4 mice and quickly move on after getting my photographs. I also raise all my own mice from local stock. I have absolutely no evidence of habitualization to humans based on my 10 years working with birds of prey provided the baiting is done properly.

Steve Berardi: It's wrong to bait owls because it introduces a piece of food to them that would not otherwise be available in their natural habitat/ecosystem. It's just as bad as feeding wild animals when you're camping, or throwing your apple cores and orange peels on the ground of hiking trails.

Barbara: Someone in one of those blog links asked what the difference was between "baiting" birds by putting out seed and using rodents to lure owls. I don't agree with baiting but I do supply seed for the birds. While there is a whole host of ethical issues involved here and a few fuzzy grey lines as well, I stop short of making a "life and death" decision in order to satisfy a passion. I suppose we interfere with nature and affect its balance every time we set foot in the woods....and yet, we are ARE a part of nature, aren't we?

Tom Pirro: This is almost like debating relegion! I do not have big issue with people feeding these birds (and using a little good judgement), but not if it turns the scene into a carnival-like atmostsphere.

I'd love to hear what your thoughts are - please click here to add your comments.