PORTLAND, Ore. – A Ninth Circuit panel seemed interested Thursday in an environmental advocate’s novel argument against what has become an increasingly standard practice in wildlife management – killing droves of one wild species in an effort to benefit another. Friends of Animals sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a 2014 plan to kill thousands of barred owls, which in recent decades have encroached on the old-growth forest habitat of threatened spotted owls. The service said it wanted to kill the birds as an experiment to determine whether reducing barred owl numbers would benefit spotted owls. While spotted owls are listed under the Endangered Species Act, barred owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Friends of Animals claimed the plan ignored the fact that the real problem was habitat destruction caused by deforestation, and instead unfairly scapegoated a protected wild animal for the spotted owl’s human-caused decline.