Organization helps owls affected by construction
Article Date: 2006-12-09 Source: http://www.svherald.com
By Gentry Braswell
Palominas, Arizona, U.S.A. - Burrowing owls live in holes in the ground, but they don't dig their own.
Because of the ongoing extrication of burrowing mammals such as prairie dogs and the urbanization of grasslands and modern agricultural technology, burrowing owls are at risk because their natural homes are disappearing. Since 2002, The Wild At Heart organization has dug about 2,000 burrows for the owls in Arizona, said Greg Clark, the organization's burrowing owl habitat coordinator.
Clark is in Palominas this weekend on Gordon Lewis' land. With the help of
Southwest Gas, he is digging 96 burrows for the birds.
Lewis said he likes the idea of helping the owls, and so does his wife.
Burrowing owls grow to about 9 inches tall and have around a 20-inch wing span.
They eat whatever they can, Clark said.
"They'll even have a go at bunnies," he said.
In May, Wild At Heart dug owl burrows in Elgin.
Such locally based, non-confrontational environmental community outreach works
better than does institutional conservation club efforts because people don't
feel pressured by such grass-roots efforts, Clark said.
"It's really directly linked to the houses, and where people want to live.
That's where burrowing owls want to live, too," he said.
Regarding the project set up earlier this year, the people who live nearby keep
Wild At Heart informed about the owls' progress in Elgin. As of early fall, the
owls were still there.
Once the owls are set up in their man-made burrows, "it's almost a slam dunk
that your going to see eggs," Clark said.
This Palominas location appears to be far enough away from the nearby San Pedro
River, a biome full of creatures that would like to eat burrowing owls, Clark
said. If the predators were to become too active at the Palominas location, the
owls would abandon their new homes.
Clark said he gets the birds primarily from areas of new housing development in
Maricopa County, and those developers cooperate with this environmental
organization in keeping an eye out for burrowing owls. He said about 1,000 acres
of habitat are eliminated monthly in Maricopa County.
This year, Wild At Heart has been collecting these owls at about twice the rate
as usual, and Clark predicts having about 250 burrowing owls to install at
various new homes throughout the state by springtime.
The Lewises' land is a windfall for the project. "We rarely get sites that are
monolithic grassland sites like this site," Clark said.
Land on and around agricultural property is the best for digging these burrows
because of all the food for burrowing owls in farm-related locations.
In addition to welcoming Cochise County locations, Wild At Heart has its sights
on making more owl burrows in the Kingman and Golden Valley area, Peoria, and
some Arizona Game and Fish Department sanctioned locations. The organization
also is working with the Bureau of Land Management for more sites.
"That is the most difficult thing for us to do in this project - finding large
pieces of property or small pieces of property next to agricultural land," Clark
Close to 50 burrows were dug Friday at the Palominas location.
Male burrowing owls remain in their burrows in the winter, and the female owls
fly south. While remaining at home they protect the food sources, and guard
their burrows. "They're a very, very hearty species. Other raptors can visit,
but they can't stay," Clark said.
In this area, the animal long gone which originally provided most of the owls
burrows were black-tail prairie dogs. They were extricated in 1926, Clark said.
People are always killing such burrow-digging mammals as prairie dogs in large
numbers, and "that's the reason why they (the owls) are in an ecological trap,"
Clark said. "It's the shooting of prairie dogs - that's why they're in trouble."
Pocket gophers are the main mammals still around to make natural burrows for
Bob Brunt of the Southeastern Arizona Contractors' Association board of
directors said his group got the good word about cooperating with Wild At Heart
from its mother organization in Tucson, the Southern Arizona Home Builders'
Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://www.svherald.com and placed here for comment.
OwlPages.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.
2007-11-19 - Palominas residents provide new homes for burrowing owls by Shar Porier - Palominas, Arizona, U.S.A.
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