The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Barred Owl Management Strategy that proposes the shooting of barred owls in an attempt to stabilize the remaining spotted owl populations in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, this proposal has been prominently discussed in outlets such as NPR and The Seattle Times, and since its proposal the plan has been hotly debated. As a species, the spotted owl is no stranger to controversy, and was the subject of some of the most controversial wildlife conservation plans from the 1970s and into the 1990s with adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Barred owls are widely accepted as one of the main factors for the current decline of spotted owl numbers, along with degradation and removal of old growth habitat. However, for the proposed barred owl management strategy, even experts in the field disagree on the efficacy of this plan. Some believe the removal of barred owls is a critical and necessary step to prevent the extinction of spotted owls, while others believe the proposal is an expensive and potentially ineffective plan that needs to be maintained in perpetuity for it to succeed.
Raedeke Associates, Inc. has monitored spotted owl populations across the Pacific Northwest since 1991, and especially within the central portion of the Washington Cascade mountains. Pictured above in the first photo is a barred owl we located at a historic spotted owl nesting site. The finding of barred owls in areas historically used by spotted owls is becoming more and more common, while spotted owl numbers continue to trend downward. Pictured above in the second photo is a spotted owl we located this past summer in The Cascades of Washington. We determined this male to be over 21 years old, which is quite old for spotted owls. We continue to root for the survival of the northern spotted owl, as its surrounding management plans and regulations evolve.
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