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Published on December 31, 1969 3:01AM

Last changed on September 9, 2013 6:48AM

Spotted, barred owls evolve

Your July 26 article "It's Owl vs. Owl" caused me to wonder about my biological training. When I began 60 years ago we learned that a species was a group of organisms with common characteristics capable of interbreeding and producing viable offspring. Species variation was called biodiversity and was important for the species' adaptation to evolutionary pressures. As near as I can figure these definitions still are accepted knowledge.

In the early 1960s I took an ornithology course (study of birds). I learned that new bird species were often established when they become isolated and would not breed when reintroduced. If upon reintroduction they did breed and produce viable offspring they were not considered a distinct species.

At the time I took this course we had yellow-shafted flickers (Colaptes auatus) east of the Rocky Mountains and red-shafted flickers (Colaptes cafer) west of the Rocky Mountains. We also had barred owls (Strix varia) east of the Rocky Mountains and spotted owls (Strix occidentalis) to the west.

Over time the eastern species moved westward and when they did they bred with the resident western species and produced viable offspring. After observing this for a number of years scientists did an interesting thing. They recognized that the flicker species should be listed as a single species, now called northern flicker (Colaptes auatus). In the case of the owl, the offspring were viable and called a sparred owl, but for some reason they are not recognized as being of the same species.

I recognize that the spotted owl has had much greater influence on the Northwest than the flicker. The $3 million being proposed to kill the barred owl would be a small part of that total picture. I also know that biologists have become suspect because of the money involved. Hopefully this is not the case in this instance.

Isn't it about time that we accept the fact that the barred owl, spotted owl and sparred owl are the same species and just maybe the sparred owl will be the evolutionary survivor?

Carlisle Harrison

Hermiston, Ore.

Amnesty for migrant workers

In regards to your last article on immigration, I have been in the business of farming since 1946, working with migrant workers.

I am an old school conservative. In the past whether workers were legal or illegal, it didn't matter if they were doing their job and then went home.

Do you realize the millions of illegals pay Social Security and the farmer matches that amount? This money goes to "Never-Never Land," filling the Social Security coffers with no return to the illegal immigrants.

I am in favor of amnesty because most are doing jobs and local workers are too lazy or too demanding. I don't know who is the bad guy, Republican or Democrat.

Yes, let's stop the flow of immigrants across the border and forget about sending back the ones who have been here only by the sweat of their brow and cause no harm to anyone.

Darryl Ehlers

Lynden, Wash.


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