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State Increases Protections For Florida Burrowing Owl

Jessica Meszaros

The Florida Burrowing Owlis now considered a “Threatened” species, which means it has higher protections from the state. And environmental advocates in the city of Cape Coral hope this new title will help their efforts in preserving the local burrowing owl population. 

Claire Sunquist Blunden with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said even though burrowing owls have not been studied extensively across the state, it’s clear their populations are dwindling—recent studies show less than 10,000 of them.

And what’s hurting these birds most is loss of habitat. So state wildlife officials moved up the owl designation from “Species of Special Concern” to “Threatened.”

"The biggest difference is that now you need a permit to harm or harass burrowing owls, and there's a slightly different definition of ‘take,'" said Sunquist Blunden. 

“Take” essentially refers to capturing, injuring or killing the birds. There are more restrictions for that now. Pascha Donaldson is with Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, a volunteer organization that monitors and maintains about 3,000 owl burrows in the city.

Donaldson said she’s upset that Florida is losing what she calls her “little fluff balls.” But she said the new designation by the state could help her case to create local protections.

"Our final goal is to get an ordinance, a local city ordinance to protect the burrowing owls," said Donaldson.

She wants Cape Coral to have its own penalties for messing with these owls or their burrows, in addition to the state’s. Donaldson said she hopes to meet with city officials and other stakeholders within a month.

Below is the FWC's Imperiled Species Management Plan. "Florida Burrowing Owl" is on page 65, using the Scribd. filter. 

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of All Things Consideredfor WGCU News.