The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Endangered owls ready to take flight in B.C.
Sat Apr 22, 10:50 AM EST

About 100 burrowing owls will take wing in the skies over British Columbia's Nicola Valley on Saturday as part of a program aimed at restoring the endangered species to their grassland habitat.

Ottawa classified the owls as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 1991. Since then, about 440 of the birds of prey have been released to the grasslands between Kamloops and Merritt.

Over the past two decades, the owls have lost 90 per cent of their habitat in southern B.C., mostly due to urban expansion and agriculture.

Every year, the B.C. Wildlife Centre in Kamloops breeds and releases burrowing owls, but most of them either die or migrate elsewhere. This year's release is the largest ever.

"We've been told by biologists if we can get up to 100 owls released to the wild, that's the kind of number we need to establish a sustaining population," said the wildlife centre's manager, Rob Purdy.

"These guys have a tough life, but some of them will come back. Last year 10 of them came back. This year, maybe more will come back," he said.

Wildlife officials will try to keep track of the owls through radio transmitters and ankle bands.

They believe the birds will spend the summer in B.C. before migrating south in September as temperatures drop and food supplies dwindle.

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Canadian Peregrine Foundation