U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

News Release

Service Releases New Report to Help Focus Conservation Efforts for the California Spotted Owl

October 05, 2017

Media Contact:
Veronica Davison, External Affairs, Phone: (916) 414-6671, Email: veronica_davison@fws.gov

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released the California Spotted Owl Conservation Objectives Report. The report synthesizes the best available science about California spotted owls and provides ecologically relevant goals that will enable land managers and others to develop and implement conservation actions and strategies to benefit the species.

The spotted owl is a medium-sized brown owl with a mottled appearance, round face, large pale brown facial disks, dark brown eyes, and a yellowish green bill. California spotted owls (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) are one of three subspecies of spotted owl that include the northern spotted owl and the Mexican spotted owl. California spotted owls are found on public forestlands and private timberlands throughout the western Sierra Nevada, as well as southern forests in California. Most of our knowledge about California spotted owl population trends is derived from four long-term demography studies in the Sierras, and one in southern California. These data indicate that since the early 1990s, California spotted owls have declined on three national forests in the Sierras: Eldorado National Forest (50 percent); Lassen National Forest (44 percent); and Sierra National Forest (31 percent). In Southern California, San Bernardino National Forest has experienced a 65 percent decline in population. Currently, the only stable population on public lands appears to be in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.

A variety of current and potential future stressors, including large, high-severity fires, barred owls, tree mortality, and contaminants may put the species at risk. In addition, some current forest management practices such as mechanical thinning, salvage logging, and clearcutting can leave this non-migratory bird vulnerable. California spotted owls are primarily found in mature, multi-layered and structurally complex forests.

California spotted owls can live more than 15 years in the wild. While adult survival is high, they have a low reproductive rate; which makes them slow to recover from population declines. Ensuring that this raptor’s habitat needs are addressed is vital to the conservation of the species. The California Spotted Owl Conservation Objectives Report is an important resource that will inform conservation efforts for the species and its habitat to ensure its survival.

To access the report and related documents, visit www.fws.gov/sacramento.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/Sacramento. Connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

Last updated: November 30, 2017