Burrow Bites

news and action for birds, people, communities
Urban Bird Foundation Undercover OPerations

Undercover Operations Save Burrowing Owls

Urban Bird Foundation has been on the frontlines defending native bird populations and habitat in and around communities across the United States. With a particular focus on saving Western burrowing owls in and adjacent to urban and suburban environments, we discovered early on that despite state and federal protections, these unique raptors are often accidentally overlooked by uninformed workers or strategically persecuted for impeding development projects.

Rodenticide/poison pulled from owl burrow.

Over the last decade, staff and volunteers have successfully posed as company employees, recruited corporate and government agency whistleblowers, and at personal risk slipped into development project sites during the day or undercover of night to protect burrowing owls (and other native birds) from behind closed doors – jumping in to action or facing down bulldozers when necessary to save owls, eggs and young.

Between 2009 and 2019, our investigations have exposed an incredibly troubling status quo that involves:

  • Illegal use of poison gas rodenticides in active burrowing owl burrows
  • Unlawful blocking of burrowing owl burrows (e.g. rocks, landscape material) designed to trap owls underground or prevent parents from tending eggs or young
  • Illicit use of dogs to disperse owls from their burrows and habitat before biologists arrive for required surveys
  • Falsified biological reports from biologists hired by development companies
  • Bulldozing and earthmoving land during breeding season before owls can be surveyed or removed – burying alive owls, eggs and juveniles
Bulldozer stopped before damaging burrowing owl burrows.

Exciting, rewarding and often heartbreaking, Urban Bird Foundation works behind the scenes, with wildlife enforcement authorities, and fields a thousand calls per year from concerned citizens to save birds as well as this underdog…an underground owl that continues to witness widespread population declines.

To report burrowing owl sightings or provide a tip for owls in danger, please email owls@urbanbird.org. For immediate owl and bird emergencies call 925-240-3399 or for injured wildlife locate your nearest wildlife hospital.

For all other inquiries, you can contact Urban Bird Foundation at info@urbanbird.org or 707-492-5554.

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