Audubon of the Western Everglades’ Brad Cornell reported that that an Owl Watch Marco volunteer discovered and reported a criminal act of intentional harm against a burrow of state-threatened burrowing owls.
On Sunday, October 6th, video footage was collected of a Marco real estate agent and property owner putting poisonous moth balls into an owl burrow on a Wayne Court lot. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s law enforcement staff were called and are investigating this incident as a criminal felony. The violator has been identified and contacted by state law enforcement.
The owls apparently survived – one of them was banded for research by Audubon Western Everglades’ biologist, Allison Smith.
This incident follows others earlier this year in which contractors had dumped dirt and other materials on top of owl burrows. Audubon of the Western Everglades emphasizes that these acts were done by very few individuals who clearly do not understand the laws protecting this species, or that owl presence on any lot does NOT mean the lot cannot be sold or built on.
Anyone can obtain a state permit to build over owl nests after breeding season (nesting is usually from February through July). There is NO need to risk criminal prosecution and heavy local and state fines for harming this or any threatened species, as is likely for this violator.
Anyone who has questions about burrowing owls or wants an FWC permit can call FWC at 561-625-5122, or Audubon Western Everglades at 239-643-7822. If you see a wildlife violation, please call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Line: 888-404-3922 (FWCC).
Audubon Western Everglades organizes the Owl Watch Monitoring and Research Program on Marco Island, staffed by biologist Allison Smith and volunteer project manager Jean Hall. There are over 50 trained volunteers who do weekly monitoring during nesting season February through July. Ms. Smith is also researching the effectiveness of starter burrows that she installs to recruit owls to ideal locations. AWE’s Owl Watch Program and the City of Marco Island are launching a voluntary Starter Burrow Incentive Program this fall.
Call AWE for more information, or visit: https://audubonwe.org/our-work/owl-watch/.