Mount Thunder Brook Reserve, Montana — After a long incubation in congressional committees and after a number of political maneuvers and proverbial back-room deals the Unspotted Owl Protection Act finally passed into law late last year. Now, some of the funds earmarked for the act are being used in an effort to locate and study some of the elusive birds.
So far, no one has actually spotted an unspotted owl, but proponents of the project claim that the funds are needed to continue the hunt for the bird which is thought to be endangered. The lead researcher in the hunt for the unspotted owl is Lee Birdseye, ornithologist from Montana State University. “Obviously the unspotted owl must be on the verge of extinction if none have ever been spotted,” Birdseye said.
Scientists are combing the woods in an all out effort to locate some of the elusive birds. They hope to study them in order to determine what they have been eating and what pathogens or pollutants may be in their systems. In order to gather this data some of the owls will have to be sacrificed. The researches are thus armed with shotguns and hope to down as many as a thousand unspotted owls in order to complete their studies.
There have been a number of false alarms as some spotted owls and other more common species have been downed, the result of misidentification during the excitement of the moment. It can be difficult to identify the birds when all the feathers have been blown off by a close range shotgun blast, but despite this, scientists are certain that they have still not found any of the unspotted owls. Thus far, despite being unable to find any examples of their rare quarry, the scientists have been able to cull nearly thirty thousand other birds and animals that are being used for various studies.
At the end of a hard day’s search the tired scientists sit down to a meal of wild turkey, pheasant, venison, and other game. They eagerly discuss plans for tomorrow’s hunt for the unspotted owl as they savor the array of delicacies. It’s easy to see the passion for the environment as they tear into the perfectly seasoned delicate flesh. The conversation slowly fades—and as sated carnivores they wander back to their tents for the evening.
The extreme difficulty in locating the owls has forced the researchers to adopt a clear cut technique in an attempt to flush the birds from their forest hideaways. So far several thousand acres of hardwoods have been felled in the search. The trees are not going to waste, however, since the lumber is being used in another study examining the ecological effects of using old-growth timber in the housing industry. The homes constructed with the high-grade lumber will be part of a long term study, with many of the researchers themselves and a number of government officials and industry leaders actually living in the houses. It is hoped that this first-hand involvement will provide better data and analysis of the salient facts.
In addition to the wildlife studies and forestry, the mineral rights for the protected land are being granted to a special trust administered by several close acquaintances of the senators who sponsored the legislation. These trustees will attempt to determine the mineral and oil potential of the region. Limited strip-mining operations will be initiated and about fifteen thousand test wells will be drilled seeking oil and gas deposits as part of a study to understand the complex relationships between mineral wealth of a region and its bio-diversity.
“All of this activity will be performed with the utmost care for the natural beauty, flora and fauna,” says Birdseye. “The strip mined areas will be replanted with fast-growing pines and fir trees in neat rows which we believe aids animal migration. The oil and gas deposits will be carefully drained off in a preemptive effort to avoid dangerous tar pits and gas explosions that can kill wildlife.”
Clearly, the care being taken is exemplary and the dedication of the lawmakers and researchers is without question. The world will be watching in eager anticipation of the discovery of the unspotted owl. In the mean time, eat hearty, our scientist-woodsmen.