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BC continues spotted owl recovery efforts by releasing 2 more into the wild

Another two spotted owls have been released into protected habitat in the Fraser Canyon.

Their release back into the wild is part of the Province’s ongoing work to recover BC’s northern spotted owl populations.

<who>Photo Credit: Government of BC

The two male owls, Sítist and Wíkcn, were released after being assessed as healthy and ready to fend for themselves in the wild.

It was July 25 that the door to their aviary was opened, allowing the owls to forage on their own and acclimatize to their new surroundings.

Nathan Cullen, BC’s minister of water, land and resource stewardship, called the recovery of threatened species a priority for his team.

"That's why we're running the world's only captive breeding and release program for northern spotted owls,” he explained. “Our strategy and the decisions we're making to support spotted owl recovery are based on the best available science and Indigenous knowledge."

This is the second release for the Spotted Owl Breeding and Release Program, but the first one, which Sítist was a part of, did not go so well.

Sítist was one of three owls released in August 2022, but he was later found injured near train tracks in the Fraser Canyon, while ministry staff confirmed months later that the two other owls had died from unknown causes.

After being rehabilitated by the Orphaned Wildlife Society and returned to the Captive Breeding Facility to make a full recovery, Sítist was given another chance at freedom in July.

Cullen says there’s a dedicated team of experts, including First Nations and ministry staff, that are doing everything they can to help spotted owls recover, but it’s a long process with no guarantee of success.

"The first release helped us learn more about raising and releasing captive-bred birds into the wild and has informed our existing protocols and procedures for transporting, releasing and supporting released owls,” he noted.

“We remain committed to doing everything we can to support the recovery of northern spotted owls and continue to learn from the released owls to support their species' survival."

The progress of Sítist and Wíkcn will be continuously monitored and both ministry staff and project partners are prepared to adapt management strategies as needed to ensure both have the best possible chance of surviving in the wild.

BC has protected more than 280,000 hectares of spotted owl habitat, which is equivalent to around 690 Stanley Parks and enough to support a future population of 125 breeding pairs.

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