The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
The text and illustrations below are reproduced from CPF's Student's Guide to Canada's Wildlife at Risk: Owl Unit. Click here for more information on this publication.
Conservation: The Burrowing Owl was classified as an endangered species in Canada in 1995, and is also considered endangered or threatened in most US states where it occurs. Recently the Canadian population was estimated to be only 1000 breeding pairs in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and declining by 16% per year. The main problem for the Burrowing Owl is the loss of breeding habitat. Grasslands have been reduced in size, and many farmers have tried to eliminate prairie dogs because they damage crops. But without the prairie dogs digging holes, the Burrowing Owl has nowhere to nest. Even Burrowing Owls which find a home face serious problems. They often hunt near roads, and many are killed by cars. Domestic cats and dogs also kill many owls, and they also suffer some natural predation from mammals and larger raptors such as the Ferruginous Hawk.
The use of chemical pesticides on insects and rodents has caused the death of many Burrowing Owls too. This is particularly unfortunate because the Burrowing Owl can be very beneficial to farmers by eating these animals. In Saskatchewan, Operation Burrowing Owl has encouraged more than 450 landowners to protect 7600 square kilometres of Burrowing Owl habitat, and Operation Grassland Community in Alberta has protected another 230 square kilometres. With continued support from landowners and some additional efforts to reduce other causes of mortality, the Burrowing Owl will hopefully be able to continue to live in Canada.
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