In the past two weeks, students across the nation explored whether or not it is it ethical to kill the more aggressive barred owl to save the spotted owl in our #DoNowPredator post. We asked students Should we kill one species to save another? Why or why not?

The northern spotted owl is a native bird to the Pacific Northwest. However, the population of the spotted owl has decreased over the years due to logging and land conversion of their habitat. Despite being added to the list of threatened species in 1990, which restricted human activity in their environments, the spotted owl faces a new challenge: the barred owl. Originally from the Eastern United States, the barred owl, a larger and more aggressive bird, extended its population in northern spotted owl territory in Canada in the 1950s and eventually into California. To ensure the barred owl doesn’t threaten the spotted owl, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has started to kill barred owls in certain areas to see if the experiment will save the northern spotted owl population. This choice sparked debate about whether or not it is morally right to kill one species in order to save another.

Students discussed different points such as how humans should fix the problem, and even suggested alternative ways to save the spotted owls. Most students agreed that we cannot decide which species can live or die.

Save the Spotted Owl!

Several students argued that humans have the duty to step in to save the threatened species.

We Should Not Decide What Lives or Dies

Many students argued that we should let nature takes it course and not kill the barred owl.

What Have Other Species Taught Us?

Some students explored what has been done in similar instances of invasive species.

How Else Can We Solve This Problem?

Students also explored alternative ways to save the spotted owl, without having to kill the barred owl.

Check out the thoughtful blog posts written by the AP Bio Rockstar students who explored the issue in-depth with articles, charts and surveys.

Here’s a screenshot from one of the writers, Madison Schmidt. Click on her name to view the entire post.


  • LAbradford

    Instead of killing an entire species, we should restore the barred owls habitat so they have somewhere to go. And, doesn’t anyone else find it ironic that we are trying to stop one species from driving another species towards extinction, by driving said species towards extinction?

  • Safa Shukairy

    I don’t think killing one species to save another is okay, it’s the circle of life, if you don’t like it maybe we should make a special place for the spotted owls to be safer


Laura Robledo

Laura Robledo studied English at UC Berkeley. When she is not reading, looking up new music, or running half marathons, she loves to explore the beautiful city of San Francisco.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor