As part of a new management plan for barred owls in the Pacific Northwest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is calling for a 500,000 bird cull—and they need hunters to help. The cull will take place over the next 30 years with the end goal of eliminating half a million barred owls from places like northern California, Oregon, and Washington state.
Barred owls have lived in the Pacific Northwest since the 1950s. Over the past 70 years, they have slowly displaced the native northern spotted owl, causing spotted owls to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. In just the past 20 years, northern spotted owl populations have declined between 35 to 80 percent.
“Everywhere the spotted owl can live and thrive, barred owls can thrive and do even better,” USFWS wildlife biologist Katherine Fitzgerald recently told the Seattle Times. Barred owls are bigger and more aggressive than northern spotted owls. They’re also better at finding food, and they have a more varied diet that includes insects, reptiles, and small mammals. And barred owls can displace spotted owls by attacking them when they get too close to their nests, according to the USFWS.
Currently, there are over 100,000 barred owls living in the Pacific Northwest. The USFWS plans to start culling them in 2025 with an initial push of 20,000 birds for the year. For the next decade, they plan to cull over 13,000 owls per year. During the following decade, that number will increase to over 16,000 birds a year. In the decade after that, managers want to eliminate over 17,000 birds per year. If successful, the plan will eliminate 30 percent of the barred owl population, which should be enough to give spotted owls a fighting chance.
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Landowners and land managers will be able to apply for permits to shoot barred owls. The USFWS says that a shotgun would be the best tool for the job. Managers are also considering capturing and euthanizing barred owls in more developed areas with higher concentrations of people.
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