Stories tagged owls

Nov
04
2010

This goes double for you, kid: Do you know what they have to eat in Slytherin? Shape up, or you'll find out.
This goes double for you, kid: Do you know what they have to eat in Slytherin? Shape up, or you'll find out.Courtesy plainsight
Please, students, have a seat. Dinner will be served momentarily, but first I need your attention for a few words. Thank you.

Well well, my little wizketeers. You have been bad, very bad indeed.

I think you all know what it is I am referring to, but I will say it anyway: owl thievery is through the roof, and I’m inclined to think that many of you are nothing but stinking little owl thieves.

I know that some of you are from muggle families, and have only recently been introduced to the traditions of wizardry, but even you should know that owl stealing is one of the worst crimes of the wizarding world. Worse than sealing a goblin in an empty pumpkin juice cask and burying it in the woods. Do you understand?

Here: extend your right arm. Place your hand on the shoulder of the wizard or witch sitting to your right. Now remove your hand from their shoulder, and thrust your finger into their eye. Either eye will do. And, for those of you sitting at the extreme left of your row, I ask that you poke your own eyeballs as well.

How did you all like that? Well, that was nowhere near as bad as stealing an owl. Do you know who else was an owl thief? Voldemort. Also, Hitler. It was certainly the least of their crimes, but no one would disagree that it was indicative of their characters.

You see, owl populations have been shrinking on the Indian subcontinent. (And, for those of you who haven’t pursued geography outside of our more magic-based curriculum, India is a massive chunk of the Earth, which is the planet we live on.) India is tremendously rich in biodiversity, but its 30 or so species of native owls are disappearing thanks, in part, to the illegal sale of owls as pets.

Oh. Gosh. Where could those owls be going? What a mystery. Wait… By Godrick’s beard… Could they maybe, just maybe, be going to one place in the world you’re most likely to find spoiled children with pet owls, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?!

It’s not as if you even take care of them. Believe me, I’ve pulled enough dead owls out of the toilet traps in this school to know.

And what’s worse is that you’re encouraging others to buy owls as well. I can—and believe me, I will—personally hunt down and punish each owl-owning student in this school, but there’s little I can do about the legions of muggle children you are inspiring to buy owls. The most I can hope for is that they all catch salmonella from careless pellet handling. But that does the owls little good, and all the while Indian ecosystems are becoming weaker and unbalanced, because top predators are being eliminated. Without creatures like owls to keep them in check, rodent populations will boom. They, in turn, can over-consume the plant life of an ecosystem and outcompete other animals.

But then, what would you all understand of ecology. Most of you can barely handle basic sums. Such is the drawback of the narrow focus of our school.

So I will make it simple for you: if I catch any of you with an owl, you will be transferred to Slytherin House. Have you ever seen Syltherin? Those kids are the worst. I’ve been in the Slytherin common room once, and I got some sort of fungus there. And if you already live in Slytherin, owl possession will earn you room and board in the forest. Does that sound fun? It’s not. The forest is like the Jersey Shore for elves. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, at least remember this: always keep an eye on your drink.

Well. I think you all have got the message now. Remember: I’m only stern with you because I care so much for you. You little poachers.

Now let’s eat!

Apr
04
2006

Spotted Owl: Spotted owl (Courtesy John and Karen Hollingsworth, US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Spotted Owl: Spotted owl (Courtesy John and Karen Hollingsworth, US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Remember the spotted owl? Back in the 80s and 90s, the spotted owl was in the news quite a bit when it was designated an endangered species and its habitat, the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, was protected. Given that the habitat of the spotted owl was also the source of income for a large number of people in the region, environmentalists, politicians, and area residents squared off. It was, and continues to be, a contentious issue. While protecting the habitat of the spotted owl makes sense, does it continue to make sense if it is at the expense of the livelihoods of hundreds of families? This issue is discussed in detail in the Hunters of the Sky exhibition, which will be at the Science Museum this fall.


The spotted owl made news again recently, this time because US Fish and Wildlife service had planned to hire a contractor to develop a recovery plan for the spotted owl, but due to federal budget cuts now finds that it will have to develop the plan on its own. Seems weird to me that this would be something that the US Fish and Wildlife would contract out, and it also seems weird that a plan for the species had not even been developed yet. I know that the issue is controversial, but it has been over 15 years since the owl was designated an endangered species – it would seem that a plan for saving an animal from extinction would be something that would need to be developed quickly. However, lawsuits have kept the plan in limbo while the spotted owl population continues to dwindle through loss of habitat from wildfires, disease, and competition from the barred owl for nests. The decision could be made for us if something is not done soon.

Mar
09
2005

The Great Gray Owl, the largest owl in North America, normally lives in a wide swath of forests sweeping from Alaska across to northeastern Canada. However, this winter Minnesotans have spotted the giant owls all over the state. The Great Gray Owl is a hunter that mostly eats voles, small rodents similar to mice. Last fall, the vole population in Canada fell to its lowest levels since 1992. (Because cold, wet weather is hard on the voles, the population has headed south.) As a result, the Great Grey Owl has had a hard time finding food up north. It has followed its food source and ended up here in Minnesota, south of its usual range.