Giving the burrowing owl a helping hand

Way back in the early ‘80s, the burrowing owl was extirpated in British Columbia. Today, this appealing little owl is getting by with a little help from their friends. The Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia (BOCS), volunteers and private landowners are just a few of the people who are restabilizing the owl’s presence in the province’s grasslands. Grassland habitat for the owls has been in constant decline and has been a huge factor in the owl’s endangered status.

The burrowing owl traditionally nests in abandoned underground dens made by other creatures, such as badgers, that are also struggling to survive. These days, man-made burrows are constructed in strategic areas to help establish a healthy population of owls for the future.

Outdoor photographers and nature lovers can play a big part in protecting grasslands and this ground-dwelling owl. When we’re out and about in nature, we can report burrowing owl sightings and share the images we might get with the BOCS. They would be very interested in knowing all the details such as location and if the owl has been banded by researchers.

The grassland areas that exist in British Columbia might one day hold a healthy population of these owls, but there’s plenty of work that still needs to be done. Protecting and respecting the grasslands is where it all starts. For some, the grasslands take a back seat to more popular natural areas like the Rockies, but when we actually spend some time in the rolling grassland hills and take in the sights, sounds and smells, we can gain a deeper appreciation for what it has to offer.

We must however exercise caution during observation and photography especially during nesting season. Limiting our stay and minimizing the use of artificial light is key. Stay on trails and paths if you can and always get permission from private landowners to enter their property. Being an ethical wildlife photographer will help the creatures we love and develop your reputation as a caring photographer with knowledge of your subject and knowing when and when not to press the shutter.

If you’re not familiar with the burrowing owl or the grasslands in our province, take a moment to learn what you can by visiting the BOCS website or contacting the Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia.
Mule deer, western meadowlarks, California bighorn sheep and mountain bluebirds abound this time of year. Perhaps one day we can add the burrowing owl to the list.

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