Injured Northern Spotted Owl, an Imperiled Species, Discovered on Mt. Tabor

PORTLAND, Ore. — On Monday, November 6, an injured Northern Spotted Owl was discovered at Mt. Tabor Park. Northern Spotted Owls are listed as threatened under the state and federal Endangered Species Act due to their low and continually declining populations. The species relies on old growth forest, and less than 10% of Oregon’s old growth forest remains. This sighting is considered very rare, as Northern Spotted Owls are uncommon outside of their range.

Northern Spotted Owl found on the dirt pathway at Mt. Tabor Park
Northern Spotted Owl found at Mt. Tabor Park, photo by Tara Lemezis

At 3 p.m. on Monday, a Portland Parks and Recreation staffer texted Bird Alliance of Oregon 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.

Bird Alliance of Oregon 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 Bird Alliance of Oregon Society, Bird Alliance of Oregon, 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 Bird Alliance of Oregon. “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.”


Quinn Read, Director of Conservation at Bird Alliance of Oregon,, 206-979-3074

Bird Alliance of Oregon was founded in 1902 to promote the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center is the oldest wildlife hospital in Oregon and gives injured and orphaned native animals a second chance at life in the wild. Through education and advocacy, the Wildlife Care Center also serves as a resource to help our community live more harmoniously with wildlife.

Our Wildlife Care Center is free and open to the public 365 days a year, and our hotline is live every day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 503-292-0304.