Upcoming at the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Facility

Written/Photographed by: Deb Dolton

Formatted by: Alyssa Lait

On May 31st 2018, I had the opportunity to visit the Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Facility which is part of the BC Conservation Foundation. I was not aware that this wonderful program is the first and only breeding program for this owl species in the world- located right here in Fort Langley!

Deb Dolton (Langley Volunteers) and Jasmine Culligh (NSO Breeding Program)

The work my tour guide Jasmine McCulligh and her team of four others are doing is amazing and so very important. The goal is to restore the population of the Spotted Owls through captive breeding and then release. These owls are one of Canada’s most endangered species.

Jasmine explained that this has happened because of habitat loss as well as competition from the similar Barred Owl which has invaded the Spotted Owl’s Range in recent decades. The big difference between the two species is the Barred Owl is more aggressive. The facility does have Barred Owls in captivity since they have learned more about the Spotted Owls by doing so.

I met “Forrest” today which was the first-born Barred Owl at the facility – he is used in their educational programs.

The facility is located on a large semi-forested property and you notice right away what a serene place it is. What a perfect environment for the breeding program and for the owls to reside until they are released. They have a number of aviaries where the 33 owls reside.

The tour began in the office, where I noticed charts of breeding information for the staff, volunteer chart of who is there and doing what, as well as owl diet charts. I met a couple of the other staff, Hannah and Katelyn.  Jasmine answered some questions for me and then we proceeded to walk around the grounds. Milo, a dog, also participated and was eager to show me around as well.

I was shown the Rodent Building where they raise both mice and rats which provides food for the owls. This building is kept very sanitary because health of these rodents is of utmost importance as it directly affects the owls’ health. They are producing good quality food, which allows the owls to hunt for the mice as well.  The owls will usually eat 2 mice a day.

The Rodent Building.

They would like to increase the number of volunteers (eight, at the time of my visit) to cover all the work that needs to be accomplished. I asked Jasmine what the top three areas of need were presently. They are the following: 

  • Yard Maintenance – I saw Vince who is the head caretaker, responsible for yard upkeep using a weed eater to cut back the brush- they are used primarily because it keeps the noise level at a minimum and do not use lawn mowers- they will use a tractor for larger upkeep needs. They need a team of volunteers to regularly help out with the Yard work which would be a big help to the staff which then gives them more time to do the work that they need to do directly with the owls.
  • Rodent House – Volunteers keep the house clean and feed the rodents.
  • Outreach and fundraising – They have been working on increasing their outreach into the community to educate and bring more awareness of the work they are doing at the facility so they need volunteers to participate in this and also with fundraising. They had a volunteer who has recently moved away who organized a great fundraiser and raised $2000 so they appreciate the ideas which helps them to continue to run this program.
  • Volunteers can also help out in the office.

Volunteers usually do not have direct contact with the owls which is the responsibility of the biologists and interns but they can definitely see the owls interacting on the grounds. If you love birds or have a passion for conservation this is a place which needs your help. Plus, at the same time you will be educated about these remarkable owls.  Shifts are usually 3-4 hours and you need to be at least 16 years old and have your own transportation to and from the facility.

New volunteers are given an orientation and are met at the facility entrance gate for the first time (like I was greeted). It is a huge property; they lease land off of the owner who also resides on the property. When I came through the gate, I parked my car and Jasmine drove me, along with Katelyn (who assisted by opening up a number of gates) to where the program is located. Along the sides of the road we passed some sheep grazing.

I definitely gained a better understanding of what Jasmine and her team are asking of their volunteers by having a tour myself, and knowing there is this important program happening right in our own backyard.

A promotional poster for the fundraiser coming this August.

They would like you to join them for a fun evening to help them celebrate the best breeding season to date and  are hosting a fundraiser on Saturday August 24th, 2019 which will include a buffet dinner- you will have the opportunity to come out and learn about the Breeding Program, there will be prizes and giveaways.

For tickets, more information about the fundraiser or to volunteer here, please contact the program:

By e-mail: nsobreedingprogram@gmail.com

Or visit their website for more options

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