[Tweeters] Snowy Owls and stress

calliopehb at comcast.net calliopehb at comcast.net
Wed Feb 13 20:14:37 PST 2013

Thank you Dennis, I wish I had your ability to convey thought like you do.

Happily birding,

Beth Thompson

Arlington, WA

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Dennis Paulson" <dennispaulson at comcast.net>
To: "TWEETERS tweeters" <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:41:47 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Snowy Owls and stress

Hello, tweets.

I read the reports about the unethical behavior of some photographers, and I couldn't agree more that this should be discouraged. As others have said, most of the ones pushing the Snowy Owls are not birders or wildlife photographers but visitors who think the birds are cool and want to get photos of or better looks at them. Many of them have cameras with short lenses not suited for bird photography, so they need/want to get as close as they can for good pictures. We all have seen the consequences of that. And do one would say this is a good thing, but I'm sure a lot of it is ignorance rather than intended harm, so education is the best response to it.

But, as I wrote last winter, I would like to clarify one aspect of this. The birds are not exhausted, they are not stressed  They are at Damon Point because they want to be there, because it is a great place for them, because they can forage very successfully there and have no problem getting enough to eat. If they were too stressed, including by the transgressions of people and dogs, they would go somewhere else. They are obviously surviving just fine after months of those transgressions. Painting a picture that they are poor suffering displaced waifs that deserve to have a better life is scientifically incorrect and, I think, morally wrong, as it immediately creates negative thoughts about all of us who go out looking for Snowy Owls.

And all other wild birds, if you think about it. Our presence in the world has an effect on everything around us, especially wildlife. Should we not go out in our backyard because there is a chickadee relaxing (if chickadees ever relax) in the tree near the door? Should we not drive because we scare birds up that are feeding by the roadside? Should we not put up bird feeders because we are inviting Pine Siskins to death by salmonellosis or Sharp-shinned Hawk?

Let's please continue to object to and educate about rude behavior but not, by our language, make wildlife viewing an unsavory activity. Let's not impugn the basic intelligence and survivor abilities of Snowy Owls and the other birds that we encounter unendingly and seem to do fine in spite of it. Habitat destruction, pollution, overharvesting of game species, introduction and subsidizing of predators, human-caused climate change, those are the real enemies of wildlife. Not people walking around and disturbing them.


Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson at comcast.net

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