The conservation of Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) populations has been one of the most controversial and visible issues in United States conservation history. Coincident with declines in Spotted Owl populations over the last three decades has been the invasion of Barred Owls (Strix varia) throughout the range of the Northern Spotted Owl (S. o. caurina) and into the range of the California Spotted Owl (S. o. occidentalis). This invasion has confused the reasons behind recent Spotted Owl declines because anecdotal and correlative information strongly suggests that Barred Owls are a new factor influencing the declines. There is great uncertainty about all aspects of the invasion, and this has sparked discussion about appropriate management and research responses regarding the effects of this invasion on Spotted Owls. We present a set of possible responses to address the issue, and we discuss the relative merits of these with regard to their efficacy given the current state of knowledge. We recommend that research specifically aimed at learning more about the interspecific relationships of these two owls throughout the range of sympatry should begin immediately. Approaches that seem unlikely to be useful in the short-term either because they do not facilitate knowledge acquisition, are relatively costly, or would be technically less feasible, should not be considered viable at this time. We believe the consequences of the invasion are potentially dire for the Spotted Owl and that research and management actions, including the use of adaptive management, are required to inform the near- and long-term decision-making process for conservation of Spotted Owls.
- Barred Owl
- Review of potential approaches to respond to Barred Owl invasion
- Spotted Owl
- Strix occidentalis
- Strix varia