On May 8th, Audubon Western Everglades staff and volunteers arrived at a vacant lot on Collingswood Ct after a report from a volunteer that the burrowing owl burrows on the property had been run over by a vehicle. A pair of burrowing owls have been reported weekly at these burrows since the start of this year’s nesting season.
One of the two collapsed burrows was heavily decorated with palm fruits and grass clippings, indicating it was being used as a nest by the owls. Because of the strong likelihood that the collapsed burrow contained eggs or chicks now trapped underground, FWC law enforcement who arrived at the scene granted permission to excavate the area to try to locate the nest chamber. Burrowing Owl burrows can extend up to 12 feet long and up to 3 feet deep, so this was no easy task. After over an hour of digging with the help of 5 volunteers, we were unable to find any intact portions of the tunnel or the nest chamber. Tunnels can usually be located by biologists and law enforcement officers by feeling for softer areas underground where the tunnel existed, however, the dirt around this burrow was so compacted from vehicles that the tunnel was no longer intact and could not be found despite the efforts of volunteers and FWC.
The burrows on this property had previously been damaged in November 2019 when one burrow was collapsed, and another narrowly missed by vehicles after the fencing was pulled up—as presented in the Coastal Breeze News article, “2nd Owl Violation in November: Penalties May Not Be Helping.” The owner of this property also owns a second vacant lot on Cascade Ct, where burrows were also run over in November 2019.
The burrows on this property were not fenced off, at the request of the landowner. Burrows are protected by state law but are not legally required to be fenced; rather, the fencing is an extra step most landowners choose to take to protect the burrows on their property from accidental collapse. Audubon Western Everglades provides all fencing, installation, and year-round maintenance free of charge as part of the Owl Watch program.
The presence of burrowing owls or their burrows does not prevent the sale or development of a property. If the owner of the property wishes to build, a permit from FWC is required, and the burrow can be removed outside of the nesting season.
If you see suspicious activity at a burrow, please call FWC at 888-404-3922, or call MIPD’s non-emergency number at 239-389-5050.