Wildlife Officials Plan to Cull Nearly Half a Million Barred Owls to Protect Spotted Owls

The annual cull amount to less than 0.5 percent of the current North American barred owl population, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed culling nearly half a million invasive barred owls in Washington state, Oregon, and California over the next three decades to protect native spotted owls from possible extinction.

“Barred owl management is not about one owl versus another,” Fish and Wildlife Service Oregon’s state supervisor Kessina Lee said in a statement. “Without actively managing barred owls, northern spotted owls will likely go extinct in all or the majority of their range, despite decades of collaborative conservation efforts.”

The agency said its proposal, published on July 3, would result in the annual removal of less than 0.5 percent of the current North American barred owl population.

According to the agency, barred owls, which are larger and more aggressive than spotted owls, are native to eastern North America and began migrating west of the Mississippi River at the beginning of the 20th century, likely due to human-induced changes in the Great Plains and northern boreal forest.

As a result of increased competition for food and interrupted nesting, spotted owl populations across most of Washington state, Oregon, and California are rapidly declining.

Half a Million Owls to Be Removed

A maximum of around 450,000 invasive barred owls, or about 15,000 per year, could be removed over 30 years, according to the agency.

The barred owls would be shot by trained professionals using a shotgun of 20 gauge or larger bore, using a non-toxic lead substitute. The carcasses would be buried on site, although where this is not possible, they may be transported to an appropriate disposal facility, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Public hunting of barred owls would not be allowed under the proposed strategy, the agency noted.

The culling would likely begin early next spring, according to the proposal.

“Barred owl removal, like all invasive species management, is not something the Service takes lightly,” Ms. Lee said. “The Service has a legal responsibility to do all it can to prevent the extinction of the federally listed northern spotted owl and support its recovery, while also addressing significant threats to California spotted owls.”

‘Doomed to Fail’

While the federal government says the culling is needed, the proposal is facing backlash from animal rights activists who note that barred owls are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

In a statement issued on the same day the Fish and Wildlife Service published its proposal, the Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy said the move would “put the federal government on a never-ending treadmill of killing forest owls” and “is doomed to fail.”

The animal advocacy groups also noted the government’s plan fails to include a price tag.

“The Biden Administration’s barred-owl kill-plan is the largest-ever scheme to slaughter raptors in any nation in the world by a country mile,” Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, said.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is turning from protector to persecutor of American wildlife,” Mr. Pacelle continued. “Its plan is wildly expensive without protecting a single acre of forest habitat, and it is doomed to fail because there’s no way for the agency to prevent surviving owls from recolonizing nest sites.”

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for further comment.


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