Population dynamics of spotted owls in the Sierra Nevada, California

Wildlife Monographs

, , , , , , , , , , , , and
DOI: 10.2193/2008-475



The California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) is the only spotted owl subspecies not listed as threatened or endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act despite petitions to list it as threatened. We conducted a meta-analysis of population data for 4 populations in the southern Cascades and Sierra Nevada, California, USA, from 1990 to 2005 to assist a listing evaluation by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Our study areas (from N to S) were on the Lassen National Forest (LAS), Eldorado National Forest (ELD), Sierra National Forest (SIE), and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SKC). These study areas represented a broad spectrum of habitat and management conditions in these mountain ranges. We estimated apparent survival probability, reproductive output, and rate of population change for spotted owls on individual study areas and for all study areas combined (meta-analysis) using model selection or model-averaging based on maximum-likelihood estimation. We followed a formal protocol to conduct this analysis that was similar to other spotted owl meta-analyses. Consistency of field and analytical methods among our studies reduced confounding methodological effects when evaluating results. We used 991 marked spotted owls in the analysis of apparent survival. Apparent survival probability was higher for adult than for subadult owls. There was little difference in apparent survival between male and female owls. Model-averaged mean estimates of apparent survival probability of adult owls varied from 0.811 ?? 0.021 for females at LAS to 0.890 ?? 0.016 for males at SKC. Apparent survival increased over time for owls of all age classes at LAS and SIE, for adults at ELD, and for second-year subadults and adults at SKC. The meta-analysis of apparent survival, which included only adult owls, confirmed an increasing trend in survival over time. Survival rates were higher for owls on SKC than on the other study areas. We analyzed data from 1,865 observations of reproductive outcomes for female spotted owls. The proportion of subadult females among all territorial females of known age ranged from 0.00 to 0.25 among study areas and years. The proportion of subadults among female spotted owls was negatively related to reproductive output (no. of young fledged/territorial F owl) for ELD and SIE. Eldorado study area and LAS showed an alternate-year trend in reproductive output, with higher output in even-numbered years. Mean annual reproductive output was 0.988 ?? 0.154 for ELD, 0.624 ?? 0.140 for LAS, 0.478 ?? 0.106 for SIE, and 0.555 ?? 0.110 for SKC. Eldorado Study Area exhibited a declining trend and the greatest variation in reproductive output over time, whereas SIE and SKC, which had the lowest reproductive output, had the lowest temporal variation. Meta-analysis confirmed that reproductive output varied among study areas. Reproductive output was highest for adults, followed by second-year subadults, and then by first-year subadults. We used 842 marked subadult and adult owls to estimate population rate of change. Modeling indicated that ??t (??t is the finite rate of population change estimated using the reparameterized JollySeber estimator Pradel 1996) was either stationary (LAS and SIE) or increasing after an initial decrease (ELD and SKC). Mean estimated ??t for the 4 study areas was 1.007 (95 CI 0.9521.066) for ELD; 0.973 (95 CI 0.9461.001) for LAS; 0.992 (95 CI 0.9661.018) for SIE; and 1.006 (95 CI 0.9471.068) for SKC. The best meta-analysis model of population trend indicated that ?? varied across time but was similar in trend among the study areas. Our estimates of realized population change (??t; Franklin et al. 2004), which we estimated as the product 1 ?? ??3 ?? ??4 ?? .?? ??k -1, were based on estimates of ??t from individual study areas and did not require estimating annual population size for each study area. Trends represented the proportion of the population size in the first ye

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Population dynamics of spotted owls in the Sierra Nevada, California
Series title:
Wildlife Monographs
Year Published:
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Wildlife Monographs
First page:
Last page:
Number of Pages: