This is the sixth year of Owl Watch on Marco Island and the 50 monitors are into the third week of visiting their sites and recording the data. There are 390 burrow sites on Marco Island, and they are broken down into 22 neighborhoods of about 15 sites each.
Maria Bachich of Hideaway Beach has been an owl monitor of the Tigertail West area for the last two years and partners with Jackie Purvis and Sharon Epple to monitor 16 sites. Maria, Sharon, and Jackie are all concerned that many lots with burrows last year now have houses and some under construction. Where did the owls go?
Necia Siegert does not mind driving from Naples every other weekend to monitor the owls in the Caxambas neighborhood and is paired up with the author to monitor 13 sites. For Necia, her first official day back was mixed with emotions. She was thrilled to be back and saw many returning owls, but she was also saddened to see the current state of home construction in the Caxambas neighborhood. A couple of her owl burrows are lost to home construction. She is hopeful that these owls have found suitable sites on the island for this nesting season.
Necia also drove around the island looking for potential properties suitable for burrows and would like to publicize the Owl Watch Starter Burrow Program as an alternative to the island build-out.
Nanette Rivera, a Marco resident, is very happy to be part of the burrowing owl “protection program” with a starter burrow installed in her front yard. Rivera has seen three lots on her street that had five active burrows turned into homes in the last 12 months.
Is the Starter Burrow Program the only option to save Marco’s burrowing owls? Brittany Piersma, Audubon of the Western Everglades Owl field biologist, is optimistic. She is hopeful that people can learn to co-exist with Marco’s threatened species such as the burrowing owls and gopher tortoises. Proximity to wildlife is also one reason people are moving to Marco Island.
If you are interested in participating in Marco’s Starter Burrow Program, please reach out to the Audubon of the Western Everglades to indicate your interest: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: starter burrows will be installed after the nesting season.
As owl monitors check out their nesting sites, Jean Hall of the Owl Watch Program is advising them on what to look for on construction sites with active burrows. Construction material and equipment should not be within 33 ft. of any active burrow during nesting season.
Before construction begins the builder needs to put a black silt fencing barrier around the perimeter of an owl burrow posting on two to three sides only. If you put opaque fencing around all 4 sides of the burrow, the owl will leave the burrow since they can’t see predators.
If there is a burrow close to the property line, silt fencing barrier should be placed on the property edge separating them from the construction.
If you observe any fencing down or not present at a construction site with an active burrow, or if you observe any disturbance to owls during nesting season, please call the Marco Island Police Department Non-Emergency Number at: 239-389-5050.
If you find an injured owl or other wildlife, please place wildlife in a box with a towel and do NOT feed. Call the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital at 239-262-2273.