Saturday, September 19, 2020

Protect Our Burrowing Owls: Your Input is Needed!


FWC seeks public input on the burrowing owl to help them prepare conservation measures and permitting guidelines. Photo by Jean Hall

FWC seeks public input on the burrowing owl to help them prepare conservation measures and permitting guidelines. Photo by Jean Hall

Recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists and specialists joined law enforcement staff at the Marco Island Library’s Rose Hall for an open-house style meeting on our burrowing owls with residents, realtors, lot owners, builders, conservation groups and other interested parties.

Stations were set up around the room with FWC staff answering questions on protection, the permitting process and the general behavior of burrowing owls. FWC was seeking written comments to help them come up with appropriate conservation measures and permitting guidelines for the burrowing owls. Public input is still needed.

What has changed?

In January 2017, the burrowing owl’s listing status changed from Species of Special Concern to State Threatened. Protections and permitting changed with the change in status.

Brad Cornell of the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) wants everyone on Marco Island to know that both the owls and the landowners can coexist on Marco Island. Having burrowing owls on your lot or in your neighborhood shouldn’t be feared, but should be seen as an

From left: Marco Island Owl Watch Program Manager Jean Hall, FWC Officer L. Sushil and Owl Watch Assistant Manager Karol Tenace. Photos by Maria Lamb

From left: Marco Island Owl Watch Program Manager Jean Hall, FWC Officer L. Sushil and Owl Watch Assistant Manager Karol Tenace. Photos by Maria Lamb

amazing asset to the city. Having clear owl management and permitting procedures is what FWC seeks input on.

The Owl Watch Program of Marco Island, in partnership with AWE, has been critical in protecting the burrowing owls in Marco Island. There are 35 volunteer monitors and they collect data weekly from March through July (nesting season). During the off-season, they also repair postings and have a paid team to keep the grass inside the postings within code. This is a volunteer group sustained fully by donations from the public.

How to submit a written comment

FWC is gathering public comments, and input is still needed. Email your comments to Imperiled@myfwc.com, with “Burrowing Owl” in the subject line, between now and September. FWC will present guidelines to the commission for approval in December 2017.

How to apply for permit?

If you are a lot owner or a builder and have protected species on your property, permits are available at FWC online permitting site. Visit myfwc.com/license/ wildlife/protected wildlife/ for more

At information stations, FWC biologists and law enforcement answered questions from the public.

At information stations, FWC biologists and law enforcement answered questions from the public.

information. You can also contact FWC’s Protected Species Permitting Office with questions or for further assistance (WildlifePermits@myfwc.com, 850-921-5990).

TERMS TO KNOW

Burrowing owls, eggs, young and active nest are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“TAKING,” possessing, or selling burrowing owls, their nest or eggs is prohibited without a permit.

“TAKE” means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect a burrowing owl or its eggs.

“HARM” means an act which actually kills or injures burrowing owls.

“HARASS” means an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to a burrowing owl by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior pattern, which include but are not limited to breeding, feeding or sheltering.

Burrowing owls use burrows for sheltering year-round, and collapse of burrows may result in a take through harm or harassment, even when the burrow is not being used for raising young.

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