On July 23, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released a final plan to shoot approximately 3,600 barred owls (Strix varia) in the Pacific Northwest in order protect the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The plan provides that the Service will use shotguns to remove barred owls from four test areas in Washington, Oregon, and California. According to the Service, the barred owl is a threat to the northern spotted owl because it outcompetes the smaller and less aggressive spotted owl for food and nesting habitat.

While the Service would have preferred to capture and relocate the barred owls, eastern states were unwilling to accept them. The plan marks the first time the Service has proposed lethal removal of barred owls.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “[a]nimal activists have blasted the federal plan, saying the government should stay out of the fray and let the more dominant bird prevail, as nature intended” (Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2013 by John Glionna). Agency officials have countered by explaining that they are proposing a controlled experiment to assess whether removal of barred owls can contributed to the recovery of the listed northern spotted owl.