Northern Spotted Owl –
Northern Spotted Owls are about 18 inches in length and have wing spans up to four feet. They are nocturnal hunters and prey primarily on squirrels, voles, wood rats and mice. They are non-migratory and prefer large territories of old-growth forest that have been maturing for 150-200 years. The range of Northern Spotted Owls stretches from Northern California to Southern British Columbia.
In 1990 they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This was primarily due to declining numbers caused by habitat loss from timber harvesting by companies that favor the same old growth forests that the owls need for nesting and hunting. Even with efforts to conserve habitat for the owls, their numbers have been dwindling about 3 percent a year.
In addition to habitat loss, the Northern Spotted Owl also suffers from a new threat, the migration of Barred Owls into their traditional territory. The Barred Owl spread from the eastern United States to the west coast in the 20th century. They are larger, more aggressive owls who have a more diverse diet making them more adaptable. They prefer the old growth forests where spotted owls make their homes. Both species are territorial and do not tolerate the other in their nesting and hunting areas. But with Barred Owls needing less territory, Northern Spotted Owls may have to protect their areas from multiple Barred Owls. This competition and the continued decline of the Northern Spotted Owl has led some people to propose the elimination of the Barred Owl. A pilot program was instituted in Northern California of shooting the Barred Owls, and another proposal calls for killing 3,600 Barred Owls throughout the Northwest, an approach that has created warranted controversy.