Burrowing owls returning to a damaged habitat after Hurricane Ian

Reporter: Samantha Johns Writer: Matthew Seaver
Burrowing owls
Burrowing owls. (Credit: WINK News)

Hurricane Ian destroyed the habitats for animals in Southwest Florida, including the underground burrows for burrowing owls.

The storm left the birds without a place to go back to, and many of them were injured. The owls are all over our community, and without a home, they’ll become scarce.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, fixing homes is the top priority for many Southwest Florida residents.

The same mindset goes for burrowing owls. Just like people, their homes were impacted by the storm surge.

“An owl will not go into a wet burrow. So if it’s flooded and still wet, they will wait until it dries out. I have found this past week that people are pulling the PVC and on vacant lots running them over because they assume the owls are not going to come back, but that’s not true,” said Pascha Donaldson, with Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife.

Despite the flood water damage, many of the burrowing owls are back in Cape Coral as if nothing happened.

In some cases, the birds were injured, and for those little ones, CROW is here to help.

“Since the storm, we’ve been seeing calls mainly from the coastal areas but also inland. A lot of trees are down a lot of their natural habitat has been affected. We’ve received, probably on average, about 30 calls a day,” said Allison Charney-Hussey, executive director for CROW.

Burrowing owl released by CROW. (Credit: WINK News)

One of the burrowing owls that CROW rehabilitated was initially found lethargic but was released Tuesday back to where he was found, healthy as can be.

CROW wants to remind you that wildlife is able to fend for itself, so only approach them if necessary.

“If you observe something that seems out of the ordinary, by all means, call us. But wildlife is very resilient. We’re seeing that post Ian. We’ve seen it other in other storms,” said Charney-Hussey.

If you can’t resist the urge to help, Donaldson said it starts with clearing out any existing burrows.

Burrowing owl burrow. (Credit: WINK News)

“Sometimes there’s a plastic bag in there, sometimes a coconut in there, sometimes it’s just trash in there. So the burrow actually has to get cleaned out in order for that bird to return,” Donaldson said.

Southwest Florida is home to the birds, and in some cases, they need help recovering just like the rest of us.

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