California Spotted Owl Study
IWS is helping to support graduate student and former employee, Stephanie Eyes, in collaboration with Susan Roberts of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center to conduct an important study examining the effects of fire on California spotted owl foraging habitat.
The California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) occurs in forested habitats of the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, in the coastal ranges from Monterey to Santa Barbara County, and in the mountainous regions of southern California and Baja California. Spotted owl populations are declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation as well as competition from barred owls (Strix varia). Because of range-wide population declines, federal and state agencies listed it as a Species of Special Concern. Throughout their range, California spotted owls are associated with late-successional forests, where, for millennia, fire has played a critical role in maintaining forest structure and function. Given the essential role of fire in forests associated with spotted owls, and because the spatial extent and behavior of fire is changing with a warming climate and decades of fire suppression, it is critical to gain a better understanding of the effects of fire on the use of habitats by California spotted owls.
Spotted owls are marked with unique color bands to assist researchers in identifying individuals year after year. The following video shows some of the USGS researchers banding and taking measurements on a pair of spotted owls in Yosemite National Park.