The Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Program began in 2007 and we have learned a lot about this species having faced many challenges over many breeding seasons that no one could have predicted. We know that we have a long road ahead of us, but we are always growing and learning. The California Condor Re-introduction and Recovery Program is a shining example that sometimes conservation programs take years and years before any tangible results are seen. The Condors were at the brink of extinction in 1982 with only 22 individuals remaining, and now the total population is up to over 400. The success of the Condor Program and the charisma of the spotted owl keeps all of us here excited for the future. The northern spotted owl is an iconic West Coast species and we all hope that it will remain (and eventually flourish) in British Columbia for many years to come.
Breeding Centre Expansion
The breeding centre currently has 28 aviaries built for the owls, but as we continue to grow and produce more owls, more aviaries are needed. Aviaries will be designed to be as economical as possible, but allowing for sufficient space for the owls to carry out natural behaviours and to consider possible future reconfigurations.
Outreach and Education
In order to increase public engagement with our project, the NSOBP would like to establish a larger outreach educational component. We hope to increase the number of classroom talks, off site camp programs, guided walks of local trails, and much more! These educational presentations will take place off site to minimize disturbance to the owls themselves but still allow visitors to learn about the program and local wildlife in an interesting, unique, and interactive manner.
Releases and Monitoring
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Resource Operations, and Rural Development has developed an internal draft release plan, but it is not currently publicly available. Released owls will be tagged with a GPS tag and their movements analyzed to teach us about release success. Information about protected habitat and other objectives can be found here.
Flying Squirrel Facility
In the wild, spotted owls primary food source is the flying squirrel. Depending on funding, the NSOBP hopes to develop a captive bred colony of northern flying squirrels for live training of pre-release spotted owls. The owls are occasionally fed live prey, but the techniques used for hunting rats and mice differ greatly compared to that of a flying squirrel. Rats and mice tend to remain on the ground and move in a linear fashion, whereas flying squirrels are an arboreal species that will climb up and down a tree in a “corkscrew” type pattern. The differences in prey behaviour could mean that captive bred spotted owls are less likely to prey upon flying squirrels. Starvation in a juvenile spotted owl’s first winter is one of the primary causes of death, so it is important that any spotted owls released into the wild are familiar with as many different types of suitable prey as possible.