- The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes killing thousands of one owl species to preserve another.
- The invasive barred owls are threatening native spotted owls, the agency said.
- The service suggests eliminating 20,000 to 46,000 barred owls in a single year.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a strategy for owl preservation: kill some to safeguard others.
The agency’s proposal, which is open for public commentary until early 2024, seeks to preserve the native population of northern spotted owls and California spotted owls. To do that, the agency suggests “lethally removing barred owls” over the course of several years.
“Competition from the non-native invasive barred owls has been identified as a primary threat to the northern spotted owl and a significant and increasing threat to the California spotted owl,” the proposal reads.
The barred owls are “slightly larger and more aggressive” than spotted owls, according to the proposal. They threaten spotted owls by disrupting their nesting and competing for prey, according to a press release from the agency.
“Researchers also have seen a few instances of barred owls interbreeding with or killing spotted owls. Because the spotted owl is already struggling due to its reduced habitat, the effect of the barred owl’s presence is an added stressor,” the service press release said.
The proposal has a variety of alternatives debating how many barred owls to eliminate, including taking no action at all. Among the six alternatives proposed, the numbers for elimination in the first year range from about 0 to 20,000 to 46,000 barred owls.
The average number of owls removed over three decades ranges from 0 to nearly 30,000 annually, depending on the proposed alternative action.