The northern spotted owl (NSO) is one of Canada’s most endangered species. Its entire Canadian range occurs in southwestern British Columbia. Though historic estimates suggest that as many as 1,000 spotted owls occurred in the province pre-European settlement, currently fewer than 30 individuals remain in Canada, with more than half of those owls residing at the NSO Breeding Facility in Langley, BC.
The primary threat to spotted owls is habitat loss and fragmentation of old growth forests. Additional threats include competition from the similar barred owl that has invaded the spotted owl’s range in recent decades.
The NSO Breeding Program began in 2007 with a founding population of six adult spotted owls. There are currently 20 spotted owls residing at the breeding facility, including four breeding pairs. The Program's target is to house 10 breeding pairs by 2020, and release 10-20 offspring each year for the next 15-20 years.
As this is the first and only breeding program for this species in the world, the team has had to overcome challenges to better understand the behaviours and husbandry techniques required to successfully breed this species.
The Program's mission is to prevent this species from becoming extirpated from Canada by releasing captive-raised spotted owls back into habitat protected for the species in the province.