Digging for Owls documents the recovery of the Burrowing Owl in British Columbia. The Burrowing Owl was extirpated from BC in 1980, but a dedicated group of biologists and volunteers are now working to bring them back. The Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia raises Burrowing Owls in captivity and releases them into the wild in the Okanagan Valley. Learn more about this fascinating animal and how the BOCSBC is working to bring them back!
Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) are a small (150-180 g) species of owl that nests in the natural grasslands of North and South America. They live in burrows that are first constructed by other burrowing mammals; in BC these mammals are usually badgers and ground squirrels. They are the only owl that nests in the ground, hence their name “burrowing.” When they first establish a burrow, they remodel the inside by kicking out old dirt.
Sadly, these charismatic owls have been disappearing throughout their range over the last 30 years. In Canada they are listed as Red-Listed (meaning endangered), and in British Columbia they were deemed extirpated in the early 1980s. Wild populations in Alberta and Saskatchewan are still decreasing, and the population in Manitoba was also deemed extirpated in the late 1990s.
Ongoing Burrowing Owl recovery work in BC will focus on increasing our knowledge of their migration route, expanding public education about grassland ecology, continuing to monitor and survey released and returning owls and supporting landowners and ranchers in their stewardship efforts.
Protecting existing grasslands is paramount to the survival of Burrowing Owls. You can also contribute by reporting any sightings of Burrowing Owls to BOCS (www.burrowingowlbc.org). The combined efforts of BOCS, BC ranchers and the public can help to ensure that these charismatic birds can be found in British Columbia for years to come.
Podcast episode featuring an interview with Okanagan Valley site co-ordinator for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society and filmmaker Lauren Meads:
Read the show notes for this podcast episode here.