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Biology 103
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The Northern Spotted Owl in Danger of Finding a Home

Clare Lindner

Have you ever noticed that there are many owls hanging around our campus? Well, if you haven't you should just check out Rockefeller dorm sometime. Anyway, owls are one of my favorite animals and they should be yours too. Owls come in a large variety of species. There is the Snowy White Owl, the Great Horned Owl, Barn Owls....the list could go on forever. Among other things, owls have an amazing life style. First of all, they have an amazing sense of radar perception that they use to hunt their pray such as squirrels and other little critters on the ground while they are in the air many feet above them. Have you ever seen an owl turn his/her head almost all the way around? Well, the explanation for this is that owls' eyes do not move within the eye socket. That's right, they stay put. In order for them to fully be able to use their eyesight, they have to be able to move their head independently of the rest of the body. That is why if an Owl's back is to you, he might just turn his head around to wink at you without moving his feet.

As I said before, owls come in a variety of sizes and colors. But, they also live in very different climates as well. Some people like to hunt owls, stuff them and put them up on their walls to show. That is completely unacceptable. Normally, owls live fine on their own in the wild minding their own business. However, there is a group of owls that is in great danger of loosing their home and becoming extinct forever. This group of our feathered friends is the Northern Spotted Owl, or Strix Occidentalis Caurina as it is called in Latin. These owls are native to the Pacific Northwest. This territory includes Oregon, Washington, California, and also parts of Mexico. These Owls love to live in the old growth forests in these regions, but in July of 1990, the Northern Spotted Owl became the unlucky member of the Endangered Species list. The reason for the significant loss of Northern Spotted Owls is because their homes are being destroyed in the Pacific Northwest by fires, natural disasters, and losses due to the timber industry. (1).

Let's talk about the habitat of the Northern Spotted Owl. According to the National Wildlife Refuge, the Northern Spotted Owl was first found in Southern California in 1858 and in the Pacific Northwest states in 1892 (1). Their habitat in the old Growth Forests consists of the following parts. Nesting, roosting, foraging, and dispersal (1). All four parts of the Owl's habitat are crucial to the survival of the owl. The best type of old growth forest for these owls to make their homes in, is a forest with a large canopy and many different layers made up from different species of trees. One of the reasons why the Northern Spotted Owls can survive well in old growth forests is because every year there is a certain number of trees that have acquired deformities. These can include large cavities, broken tops, mistletoe, and debris accumulations. After a time, some of the trees will fall to the ground after they are weak enough. One might wonder why a deteriorating habitat would serve the owls well. The fallen trees help to produce the canopy and multi layer effect in the forest. (1). With spaces between the trees and different levels, the owl can spread his wings to their full extent and fly through the forest going about his daily life.

Besides providing the Spotted Owl with the physical environment, the old growth forests also provide key pray for the Owls. The northern flying squirrel is one of our owl's favorite meals. These squirrels themselves love to feed off of fungal material that can be found in old growth forests. The forests provide the owl with a large and key food supply. (1). The owl's environment is never perfect. There are certain circumstances that serve the owls' roosting and nesting habits better than the foraging habits. This is why some people have tried to find a new home for the Northern Spotted Owl, but the balance is very difficult to find and we cannot make up for natures creation of thousand year old forests. Environmentalists have been studying certain patches of spotted owl concentration to make sure we regulate their status (2).

These creatures have adapted their lifestyle to fit the needs of their geographic location. Now, their homes are being rapidly destroyed. Currently, there is a huge debate between environmentalists and members of the logging industry and unions. The debate surrounds the fact that there have been millions of jobs lost as a result of the Endangered Species Act protecting the owls and the forests. The government has now limited the number of acres of old growth forest that can be destroyed by the logging companies. This act put millions of people out of work in the logging industry or related industries (3).

The spotted owl is in danger of becoming permanently extinct. Like many other creatures, its life depends on a delicate balance of nature and even one small difference can change everything for them. Another reason why the Northern Spotted Owl needs to keep a home is because any disruption would drastically affect the breeding of these owls. Another amazing attribute of the Northern Spotted Owl is that they mate for life and establish semi-permanent nesting places. (4). Thus, any disruption in the forest could cause them to move and inhibit their nesting habits. Some of the land which the owls currently live on is federally owned and protected land, but a lot of it is not. This is why it is important for the Pacific Northwest to protect the old growth forests and not destroy them. There are many other species of animals and plants that depend on these forests and could also become extinct if their home is destroyed.

WWW Sources

1)US Fish and Wildlife Service

2)Ecological and Environmental Software

3)Northern Spotted Owl, Endangered-Fact or Fiction,this site is about the logging controversy

4)Another Good National Fish and Wildlife Site about the Northern Spotted Owl




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