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Barred Owl Populations To Be Thinned To Save Threatened Spotted Owl


Barred owls (Strix varia) are the most commonly found owl in North America. They have a wide distribution and are known for their quintessential hooting call, “Who cooks for you?” Though common and a favorite among birders, in the Pacific Northwest they pose a serious threat to another owl species, the Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the well-respected, international determining body for species’ abundance and conservation. According to the IUCN the species is near threatened, meaning that if action is not taken immediately, the Northern spotted owl will end up within the margins of extinction. Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Northern Spotted Owl as “threatened” in 1990.

According to the USFWS habitat loss due to timber harvesting and land development are the two major reasons for the species’ population decline. The threatened owls’ habitats have been reduced to small, fragmented sections of forests leading to fierce competition with other animals and barred owls. Consequently the populations have declined. Because barred owls are larger than spotted owls and because they have a varied diet they can easily out survive other owls species.

The idea behind the experiment is to reduce populations of barred owls that are encroaching upon spotted owl habitats…

According to Mercury News biologist, and contractor for a lumber management company, Lowell Diller is harvesting barred owls in an experiment supported by the USFWS. The idea behind the experiment is to reduce populations of barred owls that are encroaching upon spotted owl habitats in order to give the threatened owls the opportunity to increase their numbers.

Mercury News reports that spotted owl populations have declined in areas by 12 percent annually even though the owls have been protected since 1990 under the ESA. The study will be published in The Journal of Wildlife Management. The expected results are that harvesting barred owls has helped spotted owls rebound. The results have not been published.

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