In a story in Discovery News online, scientists say habitat loss related to development and logging, as well as the encroachment of barred owls from the north, have likely combined to depress the Northern Spotted Owl's population to the point of creating a genetic bottleneck.
And that can lead to inbreeding. Or loss. Says Robert Fleischer, an evolutionary and conservation geneticist at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C:
It's a species that a lot of people like and enjoy. It's hard to put a value on something like that, but it would be a far less rich experience to have Pacific Northwest woods that were lacking spotted owls.
Well, but heck: Humans went through a bottleneck way back when, and we made it out the other end just fine -- grew big and strong, built houses, shifted the other species' lives around.... Go on, wags, say something now about inbreeding.
Not to make too light of it, of course.