Northern spotted owl

Photo: Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Program

Update: spotted owls released into the wild for the first time

The conservation of endangered species in B.C. took a monumental step forward in August 2022 as three spotted owls born and raised in a breeding facility were released into protected habitat in the Fraser Canyon, which was the first release of these rare birds into the wild anywhere in the world.

This historic milestone was the result of a partnership between the provincial Spotted Owl Breeding and Release Program and the Spuzzum First Nation, with the ongoing support of the federal government, conservation organizations and other groups.

Prior to the release, there was only one known spotted owl left in the wild in B.C. Today, there are four.

Learn more


The northern spotted owl is one of Canada’s most endangered species. Recovery of these endangered owls is one of our priority actions outlined in our Bridge-Seton Watershed Action Plan, and it is one of 95 fish and wildlife projects the FWCP is funding, for approximately $9.8 million, in 2022–2023. The projects help to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife in watersheds impacted by BC Hydro dams. Learn more about why BC Hydro funds the FWCP.


Northern spotted owl facts

  • The northern spotted owl is the rarest owl in Canada.
  • It’s one of three sub-species of spotted owl.
  • They prefer old-growth forests habitats.
  • It’s among the largest owls in North America (40-48 cm long).
  • It typically lays two to three eggs per clutch.
  • It gets its name from the distinct spots on its head and back.
  • The typical call is a four-note “who hoo hoo whoo.”
  • Strix occidentalis caurina is the scientific name for this species.
  • This captive breeding program is a critical part of the recovery effort of this owl in Canada.



FWCP and the Northern Spotted Owl Captive Breeding Program

One of the reasons the northern spotted owl is at risk in Canada is due to habitat loss resulting from a variety of human activities such as timber harvesting and human settlement, including the creation of reservoirs. That’s why FWCP is involved: our mission is to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by BC Hydro dams. In addition to funding the breeding program, the FWCP has also funded research and monitoring on northern spotted owls.  Subscribe and stay informed about FWCP grants, and the projects we fund, including this one. If you have questions about the FWCP, please ask us:

The Northern Spotted Owl Captive Breeding Program’s objective is to release captive-raised owls into protected habitats, with the goal of establishing a viable self-sustaining population of spotted owls within the Lillooet area.

The Northern Spotted Owl Captive Breeding Program is funded by BC Hydro, the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, INNERGEX, the Government of Canada, and the Province of B.C.


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