[NatureNS] Fwd: [Taxacom] Hypothesis about another irruption of snowy owls into

Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2013 21:21:15 -0500
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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Taxacom] Hypothesis about another irruption of snowy owls into 
Date: Sat, 14 Dec 2013 01:56:47 +0000
From: Ken Kinman <kinman@hotmail.com>
To: taxacom@mailman.nhm.ku.edu <taxacom@mailman.nhm.ku.edu>

Dear All,
         Just two years after the big snowy owl irruption of 2011-2012, 
another one is now making news across the eastern U.S. (even here in 
Kansas).  Anyway, it is my increasing suspicion that these irruptions of 
snowy owls into the United States might become quite frequent. Although 
much is said about their population numbers depending on the populations 
of their prey (especially lemmings), not much is said about the effects 
of predation on snowy owls themselves (especially the chicks).

         One of the few predators of snowy owl chicks which the parents 
are unable to chase off is the polar bear. As polar bear numbers 
decrease, they will eat less snowy owl chicks, and snowy owl populations 
can quickly increase in years when there is plenty for them to eat. But 
then the lemming population will tend to crash even more quickly, and 
the excess snowy owls must then fly south for food.

        Anyway, with fewer polar bears to keep the snowy owl population 
in check, I think the population booms and busts of both snowy owls and 
lemmings will become more frequent and severe. Some have claimed that 
polar bear populations are actually increasing, but I suspect that the 
bears are just invading human settlements more often in search of easy 
food in garbage dumps. Scavenging polar bears could be increasing, while 
the total population is decreasing. The whole ecosystem is out of 

       Thus snowy owl irruptions into the United States could become 
larger and more frequent. Therefore, I don't think the more frequent 
irruptions are as puzzling as some make it, if only they would look past 
other hypotheses (weather patterns or lemming population fluctuations) 
and look at decreased predation upon snowy owl nests as a primary factor.

                    ---------------Ken Kinman

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