The Limitations of Batesian Mimicry; Or, a Divine Flow for Habitat Loss

Adaptable squatters, they roost in lairs dug by ground squirrels and prairie dogs. Or in humanity’s exposed pipes and bunkers. Practical as plaid, burrowing owls will whisk away the soil on their own only if loose enough.


Shmita asks for a sabbatical of the land. That we leave what grows naturally for the wildlife of the field. That we save our resources.


The owls beak back the easiest and closest materials for their nests: cow manure.


That we forgive ourselves for the taking we have done.


At school soccer games, we skirt them.


That we lose grudges.


Their nests are


roped off.












is how


the owls live


on the open ground.


They mimic the rattle of snakes.


I hiss at my dogs when I want them to stop barking.


That we forgive debts. That we open private lands. That we share the food that we have stored.


They also use manure to attract dung beetles to snatch. Long-legged as models, they chase prey on foot as
often as they do it by wing.


How to entice burrowing owls to move out: Shovel them nearby burrows. They adjust within days. But most prefer to mow over their nests, entombing clutches in malls, airport runways, parking lots. We call
this construction.

Jen Karetnick is the author of eleven poetry collections, including Inheritance with a High Error Rate (Cider Press Review, 2024), winner of the 2022 Cider Press Review Book Award. Her work has won the Tiferet Writing Contest for Poetry, the Hart Crane Memorial Prize, and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, among others, and received support from the Vermont Studio Center, Roundhouse Foundation, Artists in Residence in the Everglades, and elsewhere. She is cofounder/managing editor of SWWIM Every Day.