Cape Coral builder accused of disturbing owl burrows faces felony charges

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A Cape Coral builder is facing six felony charges after he allegedly disturbed burrowing owl nests.

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife say the charges are unique because the person accused of the crime actually got caught.

“When you break the rules, knowing the rules…you should be slapped hard,” said Pascha Donaldson with Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife.

According to officers handling the investigation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “the construction manager was aware that the burrows existed, but allowed construction to occur directly next to the burrows anyway.”

“When somebody knows, there’s no excuse for it! If you don’t tell the workers, shame on you! You’re the boss. You should be held responsible for those working beneath you,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson adds that the hefty charges should be a reminder to everyone just how protected burrowing owls happen to be in SWFL.

“They’ve gone up from species of special concern to threatened. So the penalties are very stiff. You get fined, jail time. Third-degree felony. The state is very serious about protecting the animals,” Donaldson said.

The state of Florida does allow builders to build on top of burrowing owl nests, but only after checking to make sure no animals are inside the burrows.

The city of Cape Coral also tracks all the burrowing owl homes, so when a builder goes to file for a permit, they would become aware of the nests.

“That’s what we’re looking for—do it the legal way. But when you do it illegally, that’s not the right way. You can build. We’re not telling you not to build, just do it the right way—pull a permit,” Donaldson added.

WINK News reached out to the FWC and the state attorney’s office and they said additional information on the investigation would be released soon.

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