Response to a Farmer's Distress
Owl Deaths and Mice
What could possibly be the problem to the population of mice eating away at the fields?
Farmers all over Channahon are at panic for their ruined soybean crops. Mice have eaten the seeds causing damage and loss of profit for farmers who depend on the well-being of their crops to sell to the markets. The problem for farmers is how to remove the mice that have suddenly showed up. The answer to this madness could possibly be in the Morris Daily Herald news report of three barn owls found dead along the I&M canal near Channahon. But the question is: how do barn owls affect the mice population?
When Mice Attack
in the fields of Channahon's farmers, brown patches indicated that soybean seeds have been eaten away causing property damage. The Farm Bureau explains how some farmers have 10 to 15% of their crops destroyed. All evidence leads to an invasion of mice causing some farmers to set up bait traps in hopes that the population will at least reduce.
How Do the Owls Relate to This?
Three dead barn owls near the I&M Canal have been found to be poisoned. One important fact about barn owls is their food choice which consists of many types of rodents, including mice. The amount of prey they eat a day ranges from 4 to 6. The mice either hide in fear of the owls or are controlled in population size. Without the owls, the mice population could have began to thrive. The more mice there are, the more food that is needed...
In order to gather more information and evidence on the dietary patterns of the barn owls, scientists preformed an experiment on an ordinary owl pellet. The procedure was done by taking apart the pellet and separating the bones from the fur. Then the jaw bones were identified to find what organisms were eaten. They looked for the type of prey they eat, how many they eat (based on the number of prey in the organism), and size/mass. This was in order to find if the barn owl's ate rodents such as mice and if so, how many rodents/prey to see if barn owls can control a population of mice. If they can, then the barn owls' deaths could be the reason behind the amount of mice destroying and eating away the soybean crops.
Closing the Case?
Scientists found around 3 prey (three different species as well) in the pellet with a total biomass of 64g and an average biomass of 21.3g. Most of the prey happened to be rodents, including a canyon mouse. More data showed that on a 1.8 pellet per day basis, the amount of prey eaten per day is around 5.14 totaling to more than 1876.1 prey eaten per year. With three barn owls patrolling the area, the mice population was kept at a good level protecting the majority of Channahon's soybean crops. The food level pyramid was kept at a good balance. To solve the new crisis of the mouse plague, a less complicated answer would be to find the source of poisoning to avoid more barn owl deaths, and bring in more barn owls to balance the pyramid again.
Science Side of this Mess: Owls and Mice
In the beginning, the question was how do barn owls affect the mice population? The answer or theory is not as complex as one might think. The barn owls, mice, and soybean crops all show a great example of a food chain. There are many soybean crops to feed the mice population, and if there are plenty of mice, there will be owls looking to eat those mice. Though if one level of the food chain is affected, it will in turn affect the whole chain. In this case, the owls were affected first with the deaths of three barn owls. In response, the mice no longer had to fear them and could thrive. Though the more mice, the more food they will need so the soybeans were deeply affected as well.
To Readers and Farmers
The calculations made by the data such as the amount of prey an owl eats on average per day based on 1.8 pellets (5.14) and the amount per year (1876.1) can prove the affect barn owls have on the difference between ruined and saved crops. Without the owls eating the mice, the plague will increase during time. The amount of prey per year found was 50421.442 while the barn owl number was around 5042.1442. The death of three barn owls could dramatically change the prey number up and both the soybean/owl amount down. There needs to be justice in their deaths and more owls in order to possibly save more fields.