Burrowing owls from B.C. Wildlife Park breeding program to be released into wild - InfoNews

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Burrowing owls from B.C. Wildlife Park breeding program to be released into wild

A two-year-old female burrowing owl from the Burrowing Owl Conversation Society of B.C.'s captive breeding program was spotted last week by a photographer near Coquitlam.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Chris Kaufmann
April 16, 2018 - 2:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - More than 100 burrowing owls from the B.C Wildlife Park’s burrowing owl captive breeding program will be released at the end of April.

Volunteers with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C. spent last week checking the program’s burrow sites for returns from the previous year and preparing for the next release. Currently the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C. has 16 sites throughout the province, with 11 of them in Kamloops.

“Right now we are just checking the sites, seeing if any owls are back from migration,” she says. “We usually plan on releasing in the third week of April but the weather has not been great.”

The burrowing owl has been at risk of extinction throughout Canada since the 1980s, a big reason being loss of habitat, Meads says. Unlike most birds, this owl lives in burrows dug out by other animals in grassland areas.

Last week, one of the program’s owls was spotted close to Coquitlam, something Meads says is reassuring for the program.

“We are hoping that one spotted in the Lower Mainland will make its way back out to our site,” she says.

The owls in the program can be identified by a numbered black and green identification band on their legs.

Meads says compared to other provinces, B.C. has been seeing positive trends in reintroducing the burrowing owl with their program.

“We are really focused on recovering burrowing owls in Canada and not having them endangered,” Mead says. “In B.C. we are on a positive trend, we are seeing increasing numbers, more owls are returning from migration but the rest of Canada is still on a decline."

Although, some areas are struggling to reintroduce the species, Meads says some provinces have started similar programs to help reduce the endangered species.

“The Calgary Zoo recently started a project, so we are hoping that helps, and Manitoba also started a breeding program as well,” she says, adding the B.C. program is currently working with other organizations to help with their projects.

“We are collectively working across North America and with everyone’s efforts we will do quite a lot in the next ten years,” she says.

The Burrowing Owl Conservation of B.C. was brought started by the B.C. Wildlife Park in the early 1990s and has been working every year to save the burrowing owl from extinction through captive breeding programs and reintroducing the owls into their natural habitat.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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