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Portland Is Being Overrun with Barred Owls

They're invasive, and highly territorial. At the same time, the owls help connect a growing city to its wild roots.

Walk through almost any Portland park at night and you'll hear it—a chorus echoing out from the trees, seemingly asking, "Who cooks for you?"

It's the call of the barred owl.

The prolific hooter is an invasive species from the Northeast United States, now so prevalent in the Northwest it is threatening the extinction of the more famous but also more reclusive spotted owl.

"We started documenting them in the mid-1990s," says Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland. "Since then, they have pretty much exploded. Now they are practically everywhere."

It was the campaign to save the spotted owl in the 1990s that led to a drastic reduction of logging on federal lands. But today, barred owls are crowding out their smaller cousins so rapidly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtained a permit to shoot 3,500 barred owls in Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

Sallinger says there's no way to know how many of the birds there are in Portland, but 25 years ago, nobody ever brought an injured barred owl to the local Audubon Society. Now, the nonprofit treats 30 to 40 per year.

Sallinger acknowledges that barred owls are disrupting the state's ecosystem. They're also highly territorial: Joggers—especially those with ponytails—regularly report getting dive-bombed.

At the same time, the owls help connect a growing city to its wild roots, and expose Portlanders to an animal most of us would not encounter otherwise.

"They are a really cool species," Sallinger says, "and they really thrive in an urban environment."

Related: Portland Is Raptorville USA.

1. Because we're creating new neighborhoods…

2. Because we made voting even easier… 

3. Because a doomed building is now a temporary work of art… 

4. Because we're still No. 1 in semi-factual superlatives… 

5. Because you can finally get a beer for less than $10 at Moda Center… 

6. Because our news anchors don't take crap from internet trolls… 

7. Because University of Portland continues to turn out some of the best women's soccer players in the world… 

8. Because we are the champions of cyclocross…

9. … and roller derby… 

10. … and air guitar…

11. Because we're turning wastewater into beer…

12. … and beer into exercise…

13. Because a local punk legend is holding a permanent rummage sale in the basement of a record shop…

14. Because we let you stop and smell the weed…

15. Because we're a world hub for slap-tagging…

16. Because even Texans are impressed by our barbecue… 

17. … and you can get almost any style of pizza here… 

18. … and also, we've perfected the soy curl… 

19. Because we're dedicated to keeping our strippers healthy and limber…

20. Because our gynecologists are building a better speculum…

21. Because our airport keeps getting more awesome…

22. …and so does Movie Madness…

23. Because we're making Halloweens more inclusive…

24. Because the city's most daring developer is growing strawberry fields in the sky…

25. Because we're bringing the pay phone back, minus the "pay" part…

26. Because you can turn on the TV and see your neighbor compete in an eating contest against a bear…

27. Because hardcore foosball players finally have a home…

28. Because we're home to the largest astrology school in the United States… 

29. Because this is the best place in the country to be a witch… 

30. Because we believe no kitty should be left behind…

31. Because the barred owls are taking over…

32. Because the best Trail Blazer in history is playing in front of us…