Government Plans to Kill Barred Owls to Save Spotted Owls

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According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration is pursuing its plan to allow the killing of barred owls in an effort to save the threatened northern spotted owl. The spotted owl has continued to be out-competed by the barred owl and the Obama administration noted that while the plan entails an ethical dilemma, an experiment on private land shows potential for enacting the plan in other areas.

Here are some facts and numbers about the spotted owl and the plans for assisting this species' recovery:

* Oregon Wild reports the northern spotted owl measures about 18 inches in length and normally has a wingspan of approximately 42 inches.

* The bird prefers coniferous old-growth forests for its habitat and most commonly feeds on rodents, especially flying squirrels, red tree voles and wood rats.

* Weighing 17 to and 34 ounces, in the wild, the owl can live up to 15 years, but even longer in captivity, according to the Woodland Park Zoo.

* Northern spotted owls usually begin breeding at 2 or 3 years of age and are strictly monogamous with a pair bonding and mating for life.

* The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Revised Recovery Plan notes the northern spotted owl is federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as being threatened in the states of Washington, Oregon and California.

* Increasing competition from barred owls and habitat loss, especially from wildfires, are noted as two major threats against the species and private land also serves as an important habitat for the bird.

* Rates of decrease vary across the owl's range, with an average of 3 percent loss per year, but in some areas like the Olympic and Cascade ranges, the rate of annual declines are as high as 9 percent, reported the New York Times.

* Northern spotted owls are generally passive birds, which has allowed the larger and more easily adaptable barred owl to move into certain ranges and in some cases barred owls will kill male spotted owls and mate with females.

* OPB News added that last year the federal government released a new recovery plan to save the declining bird, but the plan did not map out specific conservation areas.

* Similarly, a timber industry group filed a lawsuit over the plan, which also included conducting more studies and examined the possibility of removing barred owls from certain areas.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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