This owl is found in North America in the western portions of California, Washington and Oregon, in Alaska, British Columbia, and also in southern Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico in the Rocky Mountain region. It is also found in parts of Mexico. It nests in dense, dark, mature coniferous forests. They like to live in areas along river valleys with steep walls and live in forests that have either a lot of fir trees or hardwood trees like Douglas firs or sycamores. This owl mates for life, and does not breed every year. It breeds from March to September where it will lay 2-3 eggs.
Threats to this owl include competition for habitat with the Barred owl, Great Horned owls that prey on adults and young, red-tailed hawks and ravens. Since their habitat is largely old-growth coniferous forests, it has been listed as endangered because of the forestry industry that relies on such forests. This species of owl is important in the Haida cultures of Alaska and British Colombia. The owl can be seen carved into their totem poles.