A barred owl.

A barred owl.

James Mann/Flickr

Federal wildlife researchers killed 737 invasive barred owls in 2015-16 in an ongoing experiment to determine if removing them will aid the recovery of Northern spotted owls, the bird whose threatened status was at the center of the Pacific Northwest timber wars.

Spotted owl populations have continued to decline rapidly despite environmental lawsuits, protection under the Endangered Species Act and logging restrictions in the old growth timber habitat they favor. Barred owls, which are larger, more aggressive and feed on a wider variety of prey, have taken over spotted owl territory throughout their range in Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

Scientists with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and U.S. Geological Survey, partnering with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, agreed to an experiment: Kill hundreds of barred owls in the Cle Elum area of Washington, the Oregon Coast Range and Klamath-Union-Myrtle areas of Oregon and Hoopa Valley tribal land in Northern California.

In Oregon and Washington, field crews shot 642 barred owls using 12 gauge shotguns and captured one owl alive, turning it over to the Oregon High Desert Museum in Bend. In Northern California, where early research by the late Lowell Diller of Humboldt State University documented that spotted owls reclaimed nesting areas after barred owls were removed, researchers killed 95 of the competitors.

Read more at the Capital Press.