Barn Owls in Wyoming
Wyoming is one of those states where there is simply not enough information to build an accurate picture of barn owl populations. The Wyoming Breeding Bird Atlas shows most observations of barn owls and confirmed nest sites in the eastern third of the state, however, the southwest corner also has its share of barn owls sightings and there are isolated records in other areas. Most breeding records are from Goshen County in the southeastern corner. They have also been observed breeding in cliff crevices in neighboring Platte County. But sightings and confirmed breeding sites recorded by state biologists are low in number and scattered.
The large amounts of hay, wheat, and barley grown in the state, as well as large stretches of grasslands, would provide good numbers of potential prey, but one aspect of the wide open topography is a noted lack of potential nesting sites—cliffs and trees are scarce, and ranches and farms are expansive, with few outbuildings. And regardless of good habitat, the state receives high amounts of snow fall, which in the worst years, set barn owl populations back considerably.
On the positive side, nearby Idaho has excellent populations in its agricultural valleys, and the Snake River Valley of
Idaho, where barn owls are common, runs directly into western Utah. However, barn owl progress into the rest of the state from there is impeded by high mountains.
The Wyoming Breeding Bird Atlas states that “their breeding range is likely much greater than currently known” and this seems a reasonable assumption. The atlas suggests that areas such as the Snake River Valley, Star Valley, and the Bear River floodplain in Lincoln county along the western border with Idaho have good habitat and may support numbers of barn owls. More investigation may lead to the recording of larger numbers of owls that previously expected. The range map reflects the strong probability that Idaho populations of barn owls continue along the Snake River Basin into far western Wyoming and breed there in some numbers.
Thanks to Wyoming biologist Susan Patla for contributing first hand information for this article.