EUGENE, Ore. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed an experiment to save the threatened northern spotted owl, Tuesday.
The Fish and Wildlife Service identified habitat loss and competition from the barred owls as the most pressing threats. Barred owls are more resilient to habitat loss because they’re larger than northern spotted owls, more aggressive and have a broader diet.
“We are working with our partners to improve forest health and support sustainable economic opportunities for local communities, and this experimental removal will help us determine whether managing the barred owl population also helps recover the northern spotted owl,” said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director.
Barred owls would be removed from areas near Cle Elum in Washington, Veneta, Union/Myrtle, and Hoopa in California. Scientist would then monitor the effect on northern spotted owl population trends.
The northern spotted owl was listed threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. Northern spotted owl populations are declining at an average rate of 2.9 percent each year.
Barred owls are native to eastern North America, but only recently have arrived in the West.
“We observed that as the number of barred owls detected in historical spotted owl territories increases, the number of spotted owls decreases,” said Paul Henson, State Supervisor of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office.
If the barred owl removal experiment proceeds and removal proves to be a feasible and effective method to increase spotted owls, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would consider using barred owl removal as part of a larger barred owl management strategy.