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Wild animals must be free to balance nature

My initial feelings regarding the media coverage of Mary Willard and the barn owl she was keeping in captivity were those of betrayal. I knew not all the facts and perspectives were being represented. I wondered why such an important issue _ that of appropriate human actions regarding our environment, including wildlife _ could be treated so thoughtlessly. Then I realized what an opportunity this was! It clearly outlined for me, and thousands of other environmental educators, how much work we have to do and where we must focus our efforts. Mary Willard and many others just like her (at least 800 of them in St. Petersburg) are still responding to our environment as we did 100 years ago. It was acceptable then to view the world only in regard to how we, as a species, could use it. It has since been discovered that our successes in controlling our environment solely for our benefit are coming back to haunt us.

A number of very important questions have been overlooked in the reporting of this story, such as: Why do laws prohibiting the capture, sale, injuring, killing and keeping of migratory birds exist? How does the removal of this bird (or any other animal) from the wild affect the ecosystem? How does it affect us as human beings? What are appropriate human actions when an injured wild animal is found?

Mrs. Willard demonstrated her enormous compassion for this bird in what appears to be an anthropomorphic fashion. She seems to have attributed human responses to "Pumpkin." Pumpkin, however, is not a human being. Barn owls are not by nature social. They have the potential, due to the manner in which they feed, to do great harm to human beings.

As an environmental educator, I am aware that a great many people respond to wildlife as did Mrs. Willard. I also am aware that we no longer can afford the luxury of promoting this limited viewpoint. All things are interrelated and what we do today affects us tomorrow. I am confident that when Mrs. Willard answers some of those questions for herself, she will allow the magnificent barn owl she calls Pumpkin to fulfill its role in nature. I also am hopeful that other people will continue to comply with the Florida Resource Alert Program and continue to notify game and wildlife officials who are charged with the care of Florida's fragile environment.

Barbara Gugliotti, St. Petersburg

Release is essential

to animals' well-being

Re: Wildlife advocates cry fowl over owl, Oct. 29.

Thank you for writing a second article on the plight of the barn owl held captive by a St. Petersburg woman. I was appalled that the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission would return the owl to Mrs. Willard after the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary was so successfully weaning it of human contact.

What the commission did sets a terrible precedent and tells the public that wild animals make good pets. As a park ranger for five years I have told thousands of children how important rehabilitation and release are in the desire to help wild animals.

The commission contradicts everything I have ever taught on this subject and undermines the Seabird Sanctuary, nature centers and environmental educators who stress the need for people trained in rehabilitation to do what is best for wild animals, to release them back into the wild where they belong. Thank you for clarifying this issue.

Ellen Manning, Gulfport

Reader salutes return

of Pumpkin to its owner

Congratulations to the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in returning Mary Willard's barn owl, Pumpkin, to its owner and home! It is refreshing to see a regulatory agency exercise judgment that is both sensitive and compassionate.

Donna J. Barbar, Seminole

Don't make punk trees

"scapegoat' of allergies

Re: Punk trees leave some residents in tears, Oct. 23.

In reply to Louis G. Daul, legislative chairman of the local American Association of Retired Persons chapter, regarding "punk" trees (melaleuca) making people sick, I would suggest he check the St. Petersburg Times pollen-mold spore counts and then reconsider his opinions. He also might do a little research on how far punk tree pollen is carried, compared, for example, to oak tree pollen.

I have found that for a lot of Floridians making punk trees the "scapegoat," correctly or incorrectly, is an easy way to avoid the really tough problem of allergies and treatment.

Helen Naoumides

North Redington Beach

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