Thursday, October 21, 2021

Is it “FINE” to Take an Owl’s Life?

“Several builders will still do the wrong thing and consider the violation FINES just a small cost of doing business.” ~ Karol Tenace, Owl Watch Marco Assistant Manager

On February 6, 2019, a building permit was issued for 1068 Cottonwood Drive. Since 2017, this property been documented by Owl Watch Marco to have a burrowing owl.

On March 2, 2019, an Owl Watch monitor discovered that the lot had been cleared and graded for construction. Concrete pilings had been drilled into the ground. A large NOVA Homes builder’s sign had been erected on the lot.

Gone was the owl burrow and its posting and It appeared that the owl burrow had been illegally destroyed and an owl possibly killed or even entombed in the grading process.

The violation was promptly reported to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement. According to Jean Hall, Owl Watch Program Manager, “It is nesting season now, and there could have been eggs or chicks below.”

The FWC permit website reflected the following:  Nancy Richie was the FWC agent on record; and a PERMIT WAS PENDING.  Owner had delegated Ms. Richie to file the necessary Migratory Bird Permit Removal Application. Ms. Richie completed the Nest Inspection Report and Bird Management Plan.

Per FWC guidelines, “The burrow will be removed within 24 hours of construction activity required for the driveway/culvert/stormwater swale area.” Ms. Richie was NEVER notified to remove the burrow 24 hours prior to construction.

On January 7, 2019, Marco Island passed an ordinance that provided additional protections for its most commonly found endangered, threatened or listed species including the burrowing owls. Penalties were added which included fines of a minimum of $150 and a maximum fine “not to exceed $2,000 for its third offense.”

Several Marco Island City Councilors were strongly in favor of adding a “jail time” provision to send a strong message to repeat offenders.  Councilor Sam Young chastised his fellow councilors for “paying lip service to the protection of its wildlife with fines of $100 up to $500, which is chump change for developers with deep pockets.”

Councilor Charlette Roman has lived in Marco for the past 18+ years and stated that the majority of its residents love Marco’s beautiful environment. But there is a small group that will “destroy, kill, entomb a burrowing owl and pay the fine.” As Roman added, “How else are you going to get their attention?”

At the January 7, 2019 City Council meeting, the political will was lacking to add the “jail time” provision. Breaking the law is “just the cost of doing business” for unscrupulous builders.

Also on January 7th, the City Council of Cape Coral unanimously voted to protect their burrowing owl population with a “fine not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment in county jail for a period not to exceed 60 days or both.”

The Protected Species violation for 1068 Cottonwood Court is currently under investigation by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Per Marco Island’s Protected Species Ordinance 19-01, Section 18-145, “No active of inactive owl and/or gopher tortoise burrow, or nest of any other listed species, may be taken without proper state or federal permits issued by the FWC or USFWS, as required.” |Photos by Jean Hall

1068 Cottonwood Court owl burrow and posting has been on the Owl Watch Marco monitoring list since 2017.


On March 2, an Owl Watch monitor discovered an owl burrow was removed from 1068 Cottonwood Court. The lot was cleared and graded and concrete pilings drilled.

Owl burrow was removed without proper state permits issued by FWC and lot has been graded with builder’s name posted.

2 responses to “Is it “FINE” to Take an Owl’s Life?”

  1. Rosemary Tolliver says:

    Having lived on Marco Island for 20+ years and worked on Marco Island for 30+ years it saddens me so much that this tropical paradise has turned into a build out the entire island and find a way to bring more people down here mentality. It’s all about development and how can we figure out how to cram more people and parking here. When will there be a too many people down here moment? Developers don’t care what they destroy as long as they can start building and get the dollars rolling in. What about the real estate agents? Do they not educate potential buyers of the processes in place? The fees currently on the books is a joke compared to the coffers these builders have. Certainly not the paradise I remember. More is not better. The quality of life for residents that live here year round has been substantially compromised in search of the might dollar. With all the seasonal rentals I my neighborhood I really have few “neighbors” more of an influx of people constantly coming and going. Not at all what I envisioned when we bought our property in 1997. Protect the wildlife, enforce the laws at the highest penalty. We really don’t need every square foot of this island built out…just sayin’

  2. Rosemary Tolliver says:

    Pure and simple the answer is NO! There are laws that need to be enforced. These construction companies should be fined the maximum amount from the start. They have made it quite clear it is a drop in the bucket for them so why not? I wish jail time would have been included for repeat offenders. Quit turning away from your duties in the name of money. Laws are there and to be followed. When I first started working down here 30+ years ago it was a beautiful, quiet tropical paradise. Even when we bought property down here 22 years ago it was the serene place we had dreamed of. Sadly we were naïve about the power of the almighty $$$$ time and time again. Now even the City is trying to figure out how to cram more people down here instead of realizing when we’re full, we’re full. Year round residents who spend their money down here all year long are paying the price of seeing their paradise lost. Neighbors??? Who knows who they are. Just people coming and going week after week. Not paradise anymore for us.

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