Wildlife Preservation Canada first became involved in burrowing owl recovery in Saskatchewan in 1995. Between 1995 and 2002, we established a small conservation breeding colony in the province and experimented with different release methods. This led to the development of a novel “soft-release” technique that showed the greatest success. The method involves putting pairs of young owls from the conservation breeding program into field enclosures and releasing them after they have laid their first clutch of eggs. We also investigated ways to enhance the survival of wild owls, such as providing supplemental food and installing nest boxes that deter predators.
Meanwhile, in British Columbia the Burrowing Owl Recovery Team and Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C. were attempting to reintroduce burrowing owls, which had disappeared from the province in the 1980s. Owls from a conservation breeding program had been released in the province since 1992 using a hard-release technique in which pairs were released directly from artificial burrows. However, birds often left the site soon after release, and migratory returns were extremely low.
In 2005-2006, we funded research in B.C. to compare and evaluate the traditional hard-release technique against the soft-release technique we had developed in Saskatchewan. The two techniques were implemented at the same time and evaluated in terms of number of birds remaining at the site after release, their survival, the number of young produced and the number returning to breeding grounds the following year.
Mitchell, A. 2000. The effects of release techniques on the reproductive performance and post-fledging juvenile survival of captive-bred Western Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) in the Nicola Valley, British Columbia. (MSc Thesis) Victoria: The University of Victoria, 83 p.
The Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC is a non-profit society run exclusively by volunteers who are committed to returning self-sustaining populations of burrowing owls to B.C. grasslands.
- Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation
- The Grant MacEwen Charitable Foundation