US Officials Set to Kill Almost 500K Barred Owls to Save Spotted Owls

In order to save the Spotted Owl from extinction, U.S. wildlife regulators have approved a contentious proposal to slaughter almost half a million barred owls. 

Spotted owl numbers in California, Oregon, and Washington are on the decline, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has a plan to help them. The agency’s documents reveal that over three decades after the barred owls invaded the West Coast range of two owl species—the northern spotted owl and the California spotted owl—the birds will be shot to give the diminutive spotted owl a fighting chance.

Due to their tiny size, spotted owls have little chance of surviving in the face of the invading owls’ enormous broods that reduce the “real estate” for the spotted owl.

The woods that are home to spotted owls were the primary target of previous conservation efforts, which sparked contentious debates about logging while simultaneously halting the species’ extinction. 

Officials have stated that the current rise of barred owls is undermining previous efforts. Wildlife activists and environmentalists are at odds over the idea of eliminating one bird species to preserve another. While some were reluctant to embrace the barred owl extermination method, others viewed it as a careless distraction from the urgent need to conserve forests.

Starting in the spring of next year, shotguns would be used to kill barred owls that will be enticed with recorded owl sounds broadcasted over megaphones. 

About 4,500 birds have been killed by researchers in spotted owl habitats since 2009. Although officials recognize that killing owls would not remove barred owls totally, they attempt to lower their numbers in regions where they are more entrenched. Many environmental organizations, including the American Bird Conservancy, are on board with this.

It would be illegal to hunt barred owls in public. The wildlife agency would designate companies, landowners, American Indian tribes, or government entities to carry out the exterminations. Those who wish to shoot owls would need to provide proof of having mastered the art of owl identification as well as firearm proficiency.