The Foxes and the Owls
Article Date: 2006-02-06 Source: http://action.defenders.org
Prescott, Arizona, U.S.A. - In 1990, Sam and Bob Fox established their own rescue-and-rehab operation,
Wild At Heart. It was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, specializing in
owls and other birds of prey.
Wild At Heart handled 155 birds that first year, including several burrowing
owls. When it was time to release the tiny underground dwellers, Sam didn't feel comfortable just leaving them in the desert. The owls live in burrows abandoned by rodents and other small critters.
Suitable ''holes'' weren't always easy to find.
''At least dig a trench and put some plywood and dirt over it,'' she instructed Bob. He did some research and found a better way.
Today, 16 years and many better ways later, Bob and Sam Fox are recognized
burrowing owl relocation experts. With U.S. Fish and Wildlife approval, they
rescue entire colonies of burrowing owls from construction sites and other
undesirable locations and re-establish them in custom-built homes in better
It's groundbreaking work - literally. After trapping the owls at a site,
Bob - who has long since left the movie business - starts digging. He excavates
each burrow to make sure he has every owl. The birds then spend the next 60 days
in the large aviaries - there are 37 of them - on the Foxes' one-acre
property. If released any sooner, these migratory birds would fly back to where
they came from. Right now, Wild At Heart has 90 of them waiting for release.
Meanwhile, at a new site deemed suitable for the birds, a crew of volunteers
goes to work installing a network of artificial burrows: plastic nesting boxes
connected to corrugated PVC piping sunk four feet below ground. Next, they
construct large temporary screened-in enclosures set over the new burrows. The
owls will be sheltered and fed there for 30 days as they get accustomed to their
new digs. Finally, they bring in the owls.
With construction booming in the Phoenix area, the Foxes' owl relocation
services are in demand. Burrowing owls are protected under the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act. For developers, that means either move the owls or move the project.
Most opt to call the Foxes. So do others interested in protecting the little
insect-eating owls. Defenders of Wildlife, for example, is working with Wild At
Heart to adapt their relocation methods for use in California, where burrowing
owl populations are declining at an alarming rate.
Between relocating owls and caring for sick and injured raptors, Sam
estimates she and Bob have the equivalent of three full-time jobs each. No days
off, no vacations. ''For us it's not about travel, cars, boats and houses, it's
about making a difference,'' says Sam. ''This is the path we have chosen. It's
rewarding, and it's a lifetime commitment.'' For the Foxes, that's the better
Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://action.defenders.org and placed here for comment.
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2009-05-26 - Couple saves owl near Paulden home by Joanna Dodder Nellans - Prescott, Arizona, U.S.A.
2009-05-16 - Rescued owl gets second chance by Joanna Dodder Nellans - Prescott, Arizona, U.S.A.
2009-04-18 - Owls raising young in very public places - like Whiskey Row by Joanna Dodder Nellans - Prescott, Arizona, U.S.A.
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