US Fish & Wildlife Service Plans to Kill Hundreds of Thousands of Barred Owls
USFWS presents plan to kill hundreds of thousands of barred owls
By Don Jenkins
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Nov. 16 proposed saving the endangered northern spotted owl by shooting more than 400,000 barred owls in Oregon and Washington over a 30-year period.
USFWS considered moving or sterilizing barred owls, but concluded salvation for the spotted owl must come from 12-gauge shotguns.
More than 20,000 barred owls would be shot the first year, according to USFWS’s plan. Thereafter, 13,400 to 17,400 would be killed each year for 30 years.
Without removing barred owls, the spotted owl may disappear from the Northwest, according to a draft environmental impact statement on the plan.
“Therefore, the management strategy needs to provide for rapid implementation and result in swift reduction in barred owl numbers,” the statement reads.
The northern spotted owl was listed as an endangered species in 1990. To preserve owl habitat, timber harvests were reduced. The barred owl emerged more than a decade ago as another threat.
Barred owls eat more species than do spotted owls. With more food available wherever they are, barred owls have greater population densities and crowd out spotted owls.
Barred owls are categorized as an “alien species” because they migrated westward from the Eastern U.S. and were not detected in the Northwest until 1959.
While great lengths have been taken to preserve spotted owls, barred owls are seen as an ecological menace because their wide-ranging appetites could lead to “cascading effects” on food webs, according to USFWS.
“This could affect not only spotted owls, but entire ecosystems,” the draft EIS states. The draft also states USFWS does not have sufficient information to verify whether barred owls are effecting specific species.
USFWS has experimented with shooting barred owls and reports success in at least stabilizing the population of spotted owls in a particular area. The agency now proposes killing barred owls on a bigger scale.
Barred owls would be shot in forests on the Olympic Peninsula, in the Cascade Range, the Oregon Coast range and Northern California, where barred owls are seen as a coming threat to the California spotted owl.
Recordings of the barred owls’ distinctive “who-cooks-for-you” call would be played to lure barred owls within shotgun range. One to three shots should kill both the male and female in mating pairs, according to USFWS.
USFWS looked at managing forests to give spotted owls an advantage. “Unfortunately, barred owls can occupy all forest conditions used by spotted owls and displace spotted owls under all conditions,” the draft EIS states.
Barred owls and spotted owls occasionally mate. The hybrids will be shot, too, as a threat to the spotted owl’s “genetic identity,” according to the draft EIS.
The USFWS last year announced it would develop a plan to kill barred owls and asked for public comments. Most environmental organizations and timber companies embraced the idea.
Some individuals commented that barred owls are beautiful and shouldn’t be slaughtered, and that USFWS shouldn’t interfere. “Leave both species alone and let them work it out,” a woman commented.