According to researchers, the Northern spotted owl population experienced a 4% decline between the years 1985-2013, thus making it an officially endangered species.
A 2013 study concluded that the presence of barred owls has a negative impact on the colonization of spotted owls, competing with them for food and habitat, pushing them out of their living space.
Because of this situation, spotted owls are leaving upstate California and migrating south, towards San Francisco.
Therefore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to sanction an experiment in which biologists can kill barred owls in order to save the endangered spotted ones.
Lowell Diller is a biologist contracting with Green Diamond Resource Co., responsible for managing forest land in three counties from Northern California.
In 2009 he started designating various patches of timberland for the removal of barred owls. After four years, he observed that in the areas where barred owls were not present, the Northern spotted owl populations were doing fine.
His findings are crucial in demonstrating the fact that when spotted owls don’t have to compete with barred owls over food and habitat, they remain in their space. His research will be made public soon in the Journal of Wildlife Management and Wildlife Monographs.
According to Andrea Jones, who is the California director of bird conservation at the National Audubon Society, the disruption of the old-growth habitat has pitted the two owl species against each other, making it a no-win situation for either of them.
Jones states that their organization’s position is neutral in this respect and that they’re not siding with or against the killing of the invasive owls.
Lowell Diller explains in his article that even though he doesn’t enjoy wiping out the barred owls, their primary objective is saving the native species. This measure is also supported by Shawn Cantrell, who is the Northwestern program director of Defenders of Wildlife.
He believes that this experiment should only be implemented for a short period of time and that when people mess things up, they have a responsibility to fix them.
Nevertheless, not everyone has the same perspective on the matter. According to a Mercury News report, the representatives of PETA have denounced this tactic, calling it “cheap, dirty, destructive and unimaginative.”
Northern spotted owls generally live in the old growth forests of northern California, the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., as well is in various parts of Canada and British Columbia.
They are typically very sensitive to any habitat disturbance, and since their old growth forest habitats have been declining, we now have only 560 pairs in Northern California, 500 pairs in Washington, 1200 pairs in Oregon and less than 100 in British Columbia and Canada.
Image Source: Owlguyy.blogspot