It's a good thing birds don't carry shotguns, or get to make life-or-death decisions about “predator species.”
If they did, we humans might be in big trouble.
But they don't, and we do, which is the point driven home by a pair of unrelated stories that ran in Sunday's Press Democrat.
The story on Page 1, from the San Jose Mercury News, described the “plague” of gulls that has descended on the Bay Area in recent years, making a huge mess and threatening to wipe out the endangered least terns that lay their eggs at Hayward Regional Shoreline Park. The California gull explosion – from just 24 birds left in 1980 to 53,000 today, prompted a Gilroy man to suggest that someone “just go around and collect the damn eggs and throw them in the garbage. There's too damn many to shoot.”
The story on Page A9, from the Associated Press, told of successful efforts to save the once-endangered peregrine falcon, a raptor that come back to the point that its beefed-up numbers now pose a threat to endangered shorebirds' breeding sites in Southern California. In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will no longer allow good Samaritans to rescue peregrine chicks from Bay Area highway bridges, which will likely lead to a lot of cute little chicks dropping into the water to drown.
Call it, as the headline writer did, the Peregrine Paradox. You work to save a species from extinction, and the effort succeeds to the point that that species threatens another species with extinction. So you try to figure out ways to kill off some of the first species, in order to save the next one.
You see where this is leading, right?
The problem, for both gull and peregrine managers, is that the general public frowns on bird massacres. So they can't just go out and shoot thousands of gulls, and they're already getting pushback about drowned peregrine chicks that won't even hatch until next spring. So they're trying to come up with better solutions.