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Scientific Societies Give Cautious Support to Barred Owl Removal Experiments

June 11, 2012.  On June 6, the Society for Conservation Biology, The Wildlife Society, and the Ornithological Council submitted formal comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) regarding Barred Owl (Strix varia) removal experiments in areas of the Pacific Northwest where the Barred Owl is directly competing with the threatened Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina).  In the past, SCB has supported careful and humane experimental removals of Barred Owls given the declining status of Northern Spotted Owl.

The DEIS provided seven alternative approaches for conducting Barred Owl removal experiments.  In the joint comment letter, the three scientific societies urged the FWS to adopt Alternative 7, which provides the most scientifically rigorous evaluation of the effects of Barred Owl removals across the greatest spectrum of habitats throughout Pacific Northwest.  However, the letter also noted that significant details regarding the study design for these experiments have not been provided by FWS.  Accordingly, the three scientific societies recommended that this study design undergo independent peer review to ensure that the results of these experiments are scientifically credible and relevant for future management decisions.  In addition, the comment letter urges FWS to fully comply with the Animal Welfare Act to ensure that lethal Barred Owl removal is conducted in a manner that is as humane as possible.

Finally, the letter urges FWS to not lose sight of the primary reason the Northern Spotted Owl was listed in the first place—the destruction of its old-growth forest habitat—and that Barred Owl removal should not be used as a substitute for protecting NSO habitat.

The full letter can be viewed HERE.

The three scientific societies also submitted comments on barred owl control actions in 2010.  You may read the statement HERE.