Spotted Owl Irony

SPOTTED OWL - Photo Credit: USFWS File Photograph
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SPOTTED OWL - Photo Credit: USFWS File Photograph

BY JACK DINI – The northern spotted owl was a major component in decimating the northwest timber industry. Yet, after old-growth logging was banned on most federal lands to protect owls, their numbers are vanishing faster than ever. The bird’s population continues to decline—a 40 percent slide in 25 years. (1)

Some problems include parasites and larger, barred owls. It’s been determined that there are certain blood parasites and strains in spotted owls which make them have a much more fragile immune system than previously thought. What is even more alarming is that they also carried a high number of strains which were not found in other owl species. Researchers believe that the infected northern spotted owl might have been exposed to these parasites by coming into contact with mosquitoes that had fed on  barred owls. (2)


And speaking about barred owls, these larger, more aggressive species are invading spotted owl territory. Barred owls are less selective about the habitat they use and the prey they feed upon and are out-competing northern spotted owls for habitat and food, causing spotted the spotted owls decline. The barred owl either eats spotted owls or kicks them out of their habitat. Now, to save the imperiled spotted owl, the Obama Administration is moving forward with a controversial plan to shoot barred owls. (2)

But that’s not all. A team from Oregon State University and Michigan State University has stated that partial harvesting—call it heavy thinning but not clear-cutting,  will help reduce fuel loads and set up a forest for improved habitat that will support more species, the spotted owl among them. (3, 4)

So, there you have it. After using the spotted owl to  virtually kill the logging industry, along came the barred owl which we now have to kill to save the spotted owl, and finally we now have to go back to timbering to prevent forest fires which would further destroy our spotted owl’s habitat.

As one wag has said, “You can’t make this stuff up.”


  1. Jeff Barnard and Matthew Daly, “Obama plan for spotted owl targets rival bird,”, February 29, 2012
  2. “New threat to spotted owls exposed,”, May 29, 2008
  3. “Logging for spotted owls,”, July 26, 2012
  4. “Active forest management to reduce fire could help protect northern spotted owl,”, July 24, 2012