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Spotty Recovery

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What are the implications of a newly discovered threat to spotted owls?

The Northern spotted owl has divided Oregonians for almost two decades. Logging on federal lands plummeted in 1990 when the birds were listed as an endangered species. Spotted owls have become a symbol of Oregon’s old growth forests, which serve as their natural habitat.

In addition to habitat destruction, the spotted owl faces competition for food and nesting spots from an invasive species known as the barred owl. Barred owls and habitat considerations play a large role in the spotted owl recovery plan recently finalized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but a new study shows a third major barrier to revitalilzing the species: avian malaria. This is something the recovery plan doesn’t take into account, though it clearly states that the plan should be “revisited” frequently in order to keep it up to date.

What are the implications of this new discovery? How important is the health of the spotted owl to the Northwest at this point?


  • Heather Ishak: Lead author of the San Francisco State University study on blood parasites in owls
  • Paul Phifer: Northern spotted owl recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Micheal Milstein Staff writer for the Oregonian

Photo credit: Wikipedia / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

forest owl esa logging

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