funny how it happens that you start thinking about something and that something happens. while my perpetual bemoaning of the loss of boreal owls is now….yawn… eyes rolling towards ceiling…old news, its departure has curiously, been along roughly the same timescale as that of everybody’s most beloved ungulate, the moose.
there was a time when conducting an owl survey and not having to wait, or engage in sudden braking to avoid a moose was a rare exception. that has changed completely.
yesterday, i was talking to someone and said, “i haven’t seen a moose in 2 years, and i am in the woods pretty much every spring. did you know i started owl surveys in 1987? and when i started, i really didn’t know what i was looking for but i was warm because i wore 3 layers of wool. gimme some wool for some firewood, was the saying back then. i bought a lottery ticket once and not only won 10 dollars, but also, a years’ supply of wool. now where was i? oh yeah…anyways…” sadly, it was then i realized the person was no longer there and i guess i was just talking to myself.
kind of like this blog.
but back to the moose. no sooner was i thinking about how absent they have been in my nocturnal journeys when lo and behold, one appears on the middle of the gunflint trail, without a care in the world.
of course, that got me thinking about the decline of the moose population and the decline of the boreal owl population and it was as if a light went on and i said to myself, “these declines are suspiciously parallel.”
despite their obvious differences, the two share many of the same habitat and climatic features: lowland and upland boreal forest tracts, thick understorys, cool summers and cold winters. even more of a connector is that both are situated along the southern edge of the boreal forest in northern minnesota and when change comes to large habitats and ecosystems, the change is first noticed around the edges, kind of like a barber trimming around your ears before he tackles the rest of your head.
there are those who find common ground in denouncing climate change as the vector for anything too abstract to be understood. but hello, it is a documented occurrence and i hate to shake you by your bootstraps, but it’s happening in northern minnesota and it won’t be long before both the moose and boreal owl are absent from our revered landscapes.
while the boreal owls’ demise is quietly cheered by public agencies (one less old forest species to manage around), the moose is a game species and the alarm sounded by its decline is largely from those who have an innate, mouth-breathing need to shoot a horse-sized animal with poor eyesight and then drive around town for 3 days with the carcass in an open trailer so everyone can see what hunting and manliness is all about. indeed, concern about the moose population is all about the loss of licensing and marketing and hunting-supported infrastructure. it is nothing about the demise of a species (or more), or about the fact the boreal forest is shrinking before our eyes, or the fact that we remain ignorant about who is causing all this fuss.