A biologist and contractor with a lumber company called Lowell Diller is killing the invasive barred owls, which are known to “bully” the endangered northern spotted owl. He is carrying out an experiment approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and he says it is not pleasant to kill the larger owls but that he focuses on saving the nearly extinct species.

Diller is a contractor for Green Diamond Resource Co., which is a lumber firm managing timberland in Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties. He believes the barred owl is an amazing bird but it has put the other species at risk by invading California from the eastern United States and spreading south toward San Francisco.

The Northern spotted owl is native to the Pacific Northwest mainly due to the fact that it has to fight against the barred owl, which is native to the eastern United States, for food and space. Credit: Audubon

A study published in December showed that from 1985 to 2013, the smaller spotted owl has been declining at a rate of nearly 4 percent per year. This species was declared endangered in 1990.

“It’s sort of a no-win situation,” commented Andrea Jones, the National Audubon Society’s California director of bird conservation, as reported by the Associated Press. “We’re not advocating for the killing or against the killing.”

Killing can sometimes be the lesser of two evils

The biologist applied for a permit to carry out his experiment once he heard that Jack Dumbacher, a California Academy of Sciences’ ornithology curator, had received a permit to gather certain barred owl specimens.

Given that the invasive barred owl is threatening the spotted owl’s habitat, scientists have been calling it a “bully”. Diller began his experiment in 2009, designating certain patches of timberland for barred owl removal while leaving the populations alone in other areas. In 2013, he found that northern spotted owl numbers were not declining in the areas that lacked barred owls.

Diller’s findings will be soon published in the Journal of Wildlife Management and Wildlife Monographs, showing his conservation experiment that reveals that spotted owls bounce back when they are not forced to fight against barred owls for habitat.

Source: CBS News