New NW spotted owl plan out; rival bird targeted

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A new plan for saving the northern spotted owl is taking aim -- maybe literally -- at a rival bird.

Federal agency leaders said Thursday the spotted owl is losing out to a bigger, more aggressive invader from the eastern United States, the barred owl.

The competition is now considered the most pressing threat to the spotted owl, which relies on remnant old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The spotted owl was listed under the Endangered Species Act two decades ago. But officials now say its numbers are declining by 3 percent a year -- faster than previously thought.

Federal officials have talked about shooting some of the barred owls, which are not in jeopardy of extinction. But the new plan doesn't settle on a specific way to control them.