Federal wildlife officials approve owl-killing experiment

GRANTS PASS, Ore. Federal wildlife officials are moving ahead with an experiment to see if killing a rival owl will help save the northern spotted owl from extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday it gave final approval to a plan to send trained hunters into the woods to shoot barred owls.

Barred owls migrated from the East and arrived in spotted owl territory in 1959. The agency says they have since become the biggest threat to spotted owl survival.

Plans are to kill or capture barred owls in four study areas in Washington, Oregon and Northern California over the next four years.

"We chose this alternative because it would provide for a strong, scientifically credible experiment with a high power to detect the effect of the barred owl removal on spotted owl populations," said Paul Henson, Supervisor of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. "These test areas will provide results applicable across the range of the northern spotted owl in a timely manner."

The spotted owl forced big changes in management of national forests when environmentalists won lawsuits to protect the old growth forests where the owls live from logging.