The Breeding Program was created in 2007, when an independent team of scientists determined that without a captive breeding program the northern spotted owl would surely become extirpated from Canada.
That year three owls were captured in the wild and brought to the Mountain View Conservation Centre, the original home of the NSO Breeding Program. The owls were housed indoors in a barn under strict quarantine. The program got lucky that first year when a young male named Einstein paired with older rescue female Shakkai and produced Shania - the first chick of the program. The next year pair Scarlett and Sullivan produced a second chick. We were on a roll! But at the rate of one chick per year there was no way the Program was ever going to be able to repopulate the wild. In 2011 the Program team decided to take a more aggressive approach to breeding owls. By artificially incubating the eggs, double-clutching the females, and hand-raising the chicks, the Program stood to drastically increase production and mitigate risk.
Incubating these particular eggs however, turned out to be a challenge in itself. Having never been done before, the team used data from similar species to set the parameters of incubation. We soon found out that each species has different requirements for ideal growth and weight loss. After a couple years of tweaking things we now know exactly what to do.
The same was true with hand-raising young. Spotted owl chicks are very fragile and fussy the first few days after hatching. It took a few years to get the formula just right, and now the team of biologists, interns, and veterinary professionals are ready to take care of lots of chicks!
In 2014, the Program became part of the non-profit British Columbia Conservation Foundation and all operations were moved to one central location at the back of what was formerly Mountain View farms.
As more and more owls were born into the program there was a need for more aviaries, so each year a few more aviaries are built and now the breeding centre has 28 aviaries spread out over the property.