Despite massive effort, spotted owl populations at an all-time low
A threatened owl could disappear from much of its range unless old-growth forests are protected and invasive barred owls are controlled.
The northern spotted owl has long been one of the most prominent species of the Pacific Northwest. With white-speckled brown plumage, big brown eyes, and a wingspan of up to four feet, these nocturnal birds rely solely on old-growth forests. They swoop between ancient Douglas fir and ponderosa pine on the hunt for salamanders and small rodents. For decades, researchers and conservationists have spent enormous time, effort, and money trying to protect them.
But the owls’ numbers are the lowest on record—their population has declined by somewhere between 50 and 75 percent since 1995, according to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation.
“We were anticipating that it would not be good, but we weren't quite ready for it