Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Study: Pygmy Owl Numbers Down in Mexico

A university study shows the population of a tiny endangered owl in northern Mexico has declined by an estimated 26 percent over the last seven years, a finding that environmentalists said bolsters their arguments for greater protection for the bird in Arizona. Annual surveys by a scientist show the birds are continuing to decline in numbers, although there have been some years with rebounds, according to the University of Arizona study. "There's been some variation in there," Aaron Flesch, a senior research specialist in the university's School of Natural Resources, said Tuesday. The tiny bird's numbers increased in 2005 and were similar in 2006 in northern Sonora, but "overall the trend is negative." "Should this apparent decline continue, recovery strategies that rely on pygmy owls from northern Sonora and persistence of pygmy owls in the Sonoran Desert could be jeopardized," the report said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the owl on the endangered species list in 1997 because of population declines in Arizona. But the agency withdrew it from the list last year after determining it was not a distinct subspecies and thus not worthy of protection. (photo credit)

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