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I've created a world where science has developed a new species of bird (kind of a bird, it's like a Basset Hound with wings) to be used purely as a utilitarian species. (Carrying of small loads, messages, etc.)

To set the, well, setting (in brief): in the year 2015 a (very advanced) company engineered the first of this species, and it was a huge success. They engineered a few more of them and the species started reproducing. The original birds were a huge success: they were vegetarian, they ate very little of what they did eat (mostly grass), they were completely trainable, and they could fly anywhere from ground level to 20,000 ft in the atmosphere. This makes them very convenient for long-distance hauls.

The problem, was that within ten years the population had started growing out of control, and the birds evolved to be carnivorous. They retained their original design, however, and are still completely docile, to humans. Unfortunately these birds are capable of eating small dogs and cats now, and pose a huge threat to small wildlife. (They're more aggressive than hawks, and in much more populous.) They eat all sorts of meat now: other birds, small pets, squirrels, you should get the picture by now.

The science community did not foresee this event when they created these creatures, and have no easy way of removing them. Evolutionary manipulation is out of the question.

So, the question is, how do we create a mass-extinction of these creatures?

My first thought is: the science company created this toxin that is capable of killing these Basset-birds (for lack of a better term), and it's very effective. The problem is now distribution. (How the hell do we get this toxin distributed across the entire earth, from 0 ft of elevation, to 20,000 ft of elevation?

I have no second thought on the idea, I just haven't had the creative spark to create a way to kill them all.

A couple notes:

  • The current year is 2025. The science community would like an action to eliminate them as quickly as possible. Ideally, in the period of less than a year.
  • Science is not "magically evolved" or advanced. This one company is, but that's because they only poach the best and brightest (and have all the government/military contracts in the United States, as well as Israel and England).
  • These birds are fast. Really, really fast. They can fly in excess of 80 mph, which makes them great for delivering and hauling small things. They do, however, lack maneuverability. They can't turn to save their lives.
  • These birds are distributed across the entire world. There is not a continent, or country, (apart from Antarctica) that doesn't have them. They are all-weather capable.
  • I forgot to mention this, but a comment brought it up: these birds evolve quickly. Very quickly. Any toxin would have to target all of them at once.

So, back to the question: how could these birds be eliminated, period?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm confused by one 'scientific' aspect of your story - Why did these things evolve to be carnivorous? They started out herbivorous, wouldn't have run out of food unless the rest of the ecosystem was also in deep peril, and could easily move to a new location if resources became scarce where they were. It seems like there's other factors which might affect possible extermination strategies. $\endgroup$
    – iabw
    Oct 17 '15 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ @iabw They evolved rapidly as a side effect of the genetic engineering. They were originally smaller, but after a (very) short while they evolved to be carnivorous. $\endgroup$ Oct 17 '15 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @iabw I've added that information to the question. $\endgroup$ Oct 17 '15 at 0:21
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    $\begingroup$ That's not really how 'evolution' works though... I assume you mean something like their gestation/incubation periods are very low and they breed constantly, and possibly that they experience genetic mutations as direct responses to stimuli that will be passed on to their offspring? Again, these are very specific things that affect your scenario and aren't really science-based, the same as your magic toxin. It seems like your real question has nothing to do with basset-birds and is more like "How do I release a gas through all layers of the atmosphere instantly?" which is a very different one. $\endgroup$
    – iabw
    Oct 17 '15 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ A change to carnivorous is such a large step that it sounds completely unbelievable that it evolved in just ten years. Better say the company actually started with a carnivore (for example because it had the necessary intelligence, which is one thing they wouldn't know to engineer) and supposedly removed all those genes related to eating meat; well, it turns out those genes were not really removed, but just suppressed. With the genes still available, them being activated again during ten years at least to me seems plausible (although I don't know what a geneticist would think about it). $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Oct 17 '15 at 5:42
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If the toxin is highly selective, such that it will target only Basset-birds, then the plan's simple; fog the entire earth (or the entire habitable range) of these birds with the toxin, using ground and aerial vehicles. Military cargo planes, with the foggers tethered to the cargo ramp, would be a fast way to start the work, as would conscripting local crop dusting planes and pilots to do much the same.

The question in this scenario is twofold; first, how easy is it to make the toxin, and second, how tolerant of air, sunlight, water etc. is this toxin? If it takes months to make a gallon of the pure toxin, you're going to need a much more targeted plan, but if the toxin's production process can be scaled up to industrial levels and you can make thousands of gallons an hour, the government can order major factories to mass-produce it as a national security matter. If the toxin's fairly hardy and long-lived, one good coat over all the areas the birds inhabit should be enough as any that aren't directly sprayed will come into contact with the residual toxin on any surface they perch on or brush against, then kill themselves when they preen. But if it breaks down in hours, you'll either need constant heavy bombardment, or a more targeted approach.

If the toxin is known to be effective on other species that we want to save, the decision gets harder. There's likely going to have to be collateral damage, much like Australia's mouse epidemic in 1993; overuse of pest control measures targeting Australia's many native snake species caused the balance to tip wildly in favor of introduced European field mice in the southern farming regions of the country, requiring the government to evacuate all humans, pets and livestock before fogging the entire region with pesticide, knowing that by doing so it was also killing any remaining native small animals in the area. This is actually fairly common in Australia due to the introduction of non-native species dating back to colonial times, with another major plague happening just last year, though 1993 was by far the worst.

The basic strategy would still be the same; find where the birds are and fog the area with the toxin, but on a more local level to avoid collateral damage. The sprayers would target nesting sites and migratory flocks (if the bird does indeed follow a migratory pattern).

Another option; forget the toxin, and organize drive-hunts. Put out a call for everyone who has a pump shotgun and knows how to use it, stock them with boxes of birdshot, and send them in skirmish lines toward nesting areas, shooting every Basset-bird they see. They could be augmented by the National Guard or equivalent wielding AA-12 select-fire shotguns. Just scare the birds into the air, and then fill the air with as much shot as you can. The fact that they can't maneuver in the air very well means a "scare and shoot" strategy would be very effective as long as whatever was doing the scaring wasn't viewed as prey (I'd go with ATVs, with the driver protected by highly tear-resistant clothing such as padded canvas jumpsuits). If their flight pattern is low to the ground, various types of large nets would help as well. The passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction in much this way in North America, so it should work just as well for an undesirable introduced species.

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  • $\begingroup$ Fortunately the toxin is cheap and easy to produce, and has no side effects to people, but it's been discovered that it can have minor impacts on other avian creatures. (Though not to the level it does on our neighborhood Bassett-birds.) $\endgroup$ Oct 17 '15 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ Then I would have aerial sprayers target migratory flocks of Basset-birds if they migrate and flock. If they behave more like hawks and prefer as much solitude as their numbers allow, forget the toxin and shoot them down one at a time in a skirmish line. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Oct 17 '15 at 0:32
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The science community creates a virus targeted at that specific bird, infect one and it passes it on to the rest of the birds creating a mass extinction, especially the fact that the bird is artificially engineered all the data would be available to develop a targeted virus, any part of the bird could be used, its genome for example

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  • $\begingroup$ Also, by making it a retrovirus, it would mutate fast enough that the birds would have a hard time adapting to it. Although it of course carries the risk that the virus itself gets out of control. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Oct 17 '15 at 5:45
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Method 1

Use pheromones to call the individuals to one place and then whack them off.

You might need to do that several times in different parts of the world. But considering that there would be no immunity to pheromones (all those affected, would be killed), you can repeat the process until they are out.

Method 2

Design another breed of flying dogs, but this time make them sterile (cannot reproduce). Design them to have a natural grudge against basset-birds. Make them faster and stronger and give them jaws!

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  • $\begingroup$ Aftermath of method 2, 10 years later: How do I kill winged rottweilers? $\endgroup$ Feb 3 '16 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ You don't have to kill the winged rottweilers. As stated in the answer, they are sterile and cannot reproduce. This means that their population does not increase at all and they would gradually die by themselves. Plus, since they only have a grudge against the besset birds, they are not hostile against humans and can be called down to land on the ground and be taken into cages for confinement or euthanizing. $\endgroup$ Feb 5 '16 at 18:10
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Why is causing extinction of an artificial species any different from causing extinction to any other species of animal?

Here's the solution: try to solve world hunger with those birds, and let the human race do the rest.

All we have to do is let the hungry loose on the birds. I'll assume that the ones you have in captivity are well trained enough to fly (unknowingly) towards their own captors on command.

Feed the hungry with the birds. Let them hunt them to extinction. Humans have already done it to other species before, I don't see a valid reason why we can't do it again.

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You could put a small bounty on them and encourage people to manually kill them. They'll still (usually) have to come close to land to feed, and whatever 'clever strategy' your scientists and governments are trying to develop, you're already going to have people killing the bassett-birds if their pets are endangered. This worked surprisingly well for exterminating grey wolves in the American west when farmers felt they were too large of a risk to their livestock.

While it probably wouldn't get ALL of the animals in a year, it DOES eliminate the risk of a global toxin having unforeseen side effects on the rest of the ecosystem ( I don't see how something like the UN would ever allow that idea anyway ).

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  • $\begingroup$ Good luck with that $\endgroup$
    – jwiz21
    Oct 17 '15 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ @jwiz21: Actually with much lower technology, such bounties have destroyed whole populations of animals in their native habitats. Most similar probably being red kites in England. $\endgroup$ Oct 17 '15 at 12:44

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