At 3 p.m. on Monday, a Portland Parks and Recreation staffer texted Portland Audubon employee, Tara Lemezis, asking for the species of an injured owl at Mt. Tabor Park. Tara, a member of our education team and birder, recognized the bird as a Northern Spotted Owl, and immediately went to retrieve the bird to bring them to our Wildlife Care Center for treatment. The owl was soaked from the recent rain, with eyes closed, and was lying on the forest trail.
“Once at our wildlife hospital, we were able to fully examine the bird,” said Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator. “He was dull, wet, had blood on his feet, beak and body feathers, and could barely stand or keep himself upright. We initiated stabilizing care protocols. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Spotted Owl didn’t make it through the night. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has the carcass for further analysis, and hopes to find the cause of death.”
Northern Spotted Owls are resident birds, which means they are seldom seen outside of their range. Their nesting locations are kept secret to protect the species from disturbance. While we can’t know how the owl ended up in Mt. Tabor Park, it’s possible that this hatch-year bird dispersed in the wrong direction.
Portland Audubon has worked for decades to protect Northern Spotted Owls and the old growth forests on which they depend. In fact, it was a result of a petition filed by Seattle Audubon Society, Portland Audubon, and others that led to the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 and to the first significant protections of old growth ecosystems under the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994.
“The extinction crisis can often seem like an abstraction. Today, it is not. The appearance of an imperiled Northern Spotted Owl in our own backyard, followed by its sad passing, reminds us that our collective work to protect this species is as important today as it was three decades ago,” said Quinn Read, Director of Conservation for Portland Audubon. “As we fight to maintain the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, and as we look ahead to a revision of the groundbreaking Northwest Forest Plan, we will continue our work to protect Northern Spotted Owls and the fragile old growth forests they depend on for survival.”