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Barred Owl Study Update

Photo of samples being collected from a barred owl

The goal of this experiment is to test the feasibility of barred owl removal to determine whether it improves conditions for spotted owls on a small scale. We will remove barred owls on less than one twentieth of one percent of the range of the barred owl. 

  • USFWS Continues Experimental Removal of Barred Owls for the Conservation of Northern Spotted Owls Through August 2021. 

    The Service initiated work on the Barred Owl Removal Experiment (Experiment) within one study area in September 2013, and began implementation in the other three study areas starting in 2015 and 2016.   

    To date, the Experiment has demonstrated success in the removal of barred owls, resulting in reduced and declining barred owl populations in the removal areas.  In areas where no removal occurs, barred owls continue to increase.

    Across all study areas, barred owl removal appears to have stabilized spotted owl populations, though at low levels, on the removal areas compared to continuing declines of spotted owls where no barred owl are removed.  There is evidence that barred owl removal has substantially improved the apparent survival rate of spotted owl on the Hoopa study area, though the total spotted owl resident population remains relatively low and is not increasing significantly yet.

    In the Final EIS, the Service stated:  “The experiment will run until sufficient information is gathered to determine the effects of the removal of barred owls on spotted owl population trends. The experiment will begin as soon as possible, and results will be reviewed annually to determine when data are sufficient to answer the research questions. Removal activities would end when the data are sufficient to meet purpose and need. We set a maximum duration of 10 years of barred owl removal for the experiment.” 

    The Service has decided to continue the Experiment through August 2021.  Continuation of barred owl removal through August 2021 will allow us to validate the initial indications of positive spotted owl response are not a result of natural variation.

    We have evaluated the effect of this continuation on the analyses in the Final EIS and found that the continuation does not substantially change the proposed action relevant to environmental concerns and there are no significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.  The estimated total number of barred owls to be removed with the continuation remains within the number estimated in the Final EIS, and is simply spread over a longer period.

    Documentation of our analysis and decision to continue the Experiment can be found here.

    The Service has also now extended the term of the Safe Harbor Agreements and associated permits signed with Weyerhaeuser Company and the Oregon Department of Forestry for access to their lands for barred owl surveys and removal to help with the Experiment.

    Documentation of our analysis and decision to extend the Safe Harbor Agreements and associated permits can be found here.

    The most recent annual report can be downloaded here.

    The Service ended the removal of barred owls on the Oregon Coast Ranges, Cle Elum, and Union/Myrtle study areas in 2020. We have reached the level of information we can obtain from these study areas and have sufficient data to move forward.

    We will continue experimental removal of barred owls in the Hoopa Study Area through the 2021 season.

    Update of Barred Owls Removed

    Individual Barred Owls Removed by Study Area as of August 31, 2020.



    Oregon Coast Ranges

    Cle Elum












    Photo above of researcher Zachary Hanna of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and California Academy of Sciences collecting tissue samples from a barred owl on the Hoopa Study Area for genetic and other analyses.
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