The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering listing the northern spotted owl as an endangered species.
The owl, found in forests in Washington, Oregon and California, is now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the Environmental Protection Information Center has requested the agency reclassify the medium-sized, chocolate brown owl with dark eyes.
The wildlife agency said the species is declining due to loss of its habitat and competition from barred owls, which have spread westward. Native to eastern North America, barred owls are best-known for their "hoot" call. They are larger, more aggressive and more adaptable than the northern spotted owl.
The agency will conduct a 12-month review of the species and then determine if the status needs to be elevated from threatened to endangered.
“The best tools we have to prevent spotted owls from going extinct are continued habitat protection and barred owl management, both of which are recommended in the recovery plan," FWS Oregon State Supervisor Paul Henson said in a release.
“On a positive note, the experimental removal of barred owls is showing real promise, with early reports indicating that spotted owl populations rebound when barred owl populations are reduced. Our review of the spotted owl will tell us whether current efforts to address threats are sufficient.”