Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A. - Environmentalists are growing increasingly concerned about burrowing owls losing their homes to development. But there is a way you can help save this species.
More than 350 burrowing owls call Marco home, which is one of the largest
populations in Southwest Florida.
Almost all of the birds live on vacant lots, but many of those lots are now being developed.
Environmentalists say that is forcing the owls off the island as they look for a new place to burrow.
"The less amount of habitat the species has, the smaller the population will be," said Nancy Richie, Environmentalist Specialist for the City of Marco Island.
Richie is hoping to save the owls by working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She wants the state agency to upgrade the burrowing owl from a species of interest to a threatened species. The new designation would afford the owl more protection.
Richie also want to make it mandatory for developer to build a new burrow for the owls if they destroy one.
"It's not a guarantee they'll use the burrow, but at least we're trying to find a new place for the animal," she said.
Developers already have to get a permit from the state before they can destroy a burrow. Building industry officials say any more restrictions are unnecessary.
"The rules are very strict, at what point do you also need to serve the habitat
of human beings as well," said Brenda Talbert of the Collier County Building
Environmentalists say you can help the owls too. Homeowners can dig a hole on their property six inches deep and at a 45 angle, and then add a perch. This gives the displaced birds a new place to live. You can also pick up trash and clear out weeds near current burrows, which should convince the owls to stay.
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