Saving the burrowing owl

Times-Herald Staff
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The burrowing owl took its perch in front of its supporters on Tuesday.

One of the burrowing owls kept in captivity by the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre peaks out of his cage on Tuesday.

Moose Jaw’s Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre and the Nature Conservancy of Canada teamed up at the Golden Nugget Centre to raise awareness for the endangered bird.

Lori Johnson of the Interpretive Centre told the audience of the 94 per cent decline of the species, which became endangered in 1995.

“Habitat loss and destruction is probably the number one factor in the decline,” said Johnson of the burrowing owl, of which there are only 21 confirmed pairs in the province. “Within our life time the species will be extinct if the rate of decline continues.”

Johnson believes a healthier eco-system creates a more stable home for the owl and other species.

“If you start to lose the burrowing owls you will have an unhealthy ecosystem, which is going to end up affecting other species, Johnson said. “It’s that interconnection between all living species.”

Kirsten Jensen, of the Nature Conservatory of Canada agreed with Johnson. The Conservatory’s focus is to protect land for biodiversity and the organization does that by creating agreements with land owners to keep land in its natural habitat.

“Moose Jaw is where we started because this part of the country is really important for birds and migratory birds, especially water fowls,” said Jensen. “This is where we started doing business and the majority of our properties are within an hour of Moose Jaw.”

The Owl Interpretive Centre houses 13 birds, with the majority of that number being hatched at the centre and some also being rehabilitated. The burrowing owl can be found in southern Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, BC and South America.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that we still have a small amount of burrowing owls in Saskatchewan,” Johnson said. “Our numbers are continuing to decline, though, and we just need the public to be more aware of  that and some of the things they can do to help with the conservation of the species.”

The Interpretive Centre is a great place for the public to learn more about the birds. The Centre opens in May and will run seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m..

Organizations: Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre, Golden Nugget Centre

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Canada, Southern Saskatchewan Southern Alberta South America Saskatchewan

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