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CalPortland helps protect burrowing owls

Published by , Assistant Editor
World Cement,

CalPortland is the first company in the rock products industry to safely construct burrowing owl habitats within one of its mining sites. The habitats are designed to support the residents in a safe, comfortable and environmentally efficient manner.

In the absence of suitable homes created by ground squirrels, prairie dogs, desert tortoises in new agricultural areas and development, the burrowing owl habitat has diminished and they need some assistance to ensure a prolific future.

The idea of building a habitat at one of the company’s sites came from CalPortland’s environmental specialist for Arizona, Rebecca Kervella. The idea was received with much enthusiasm and support by Scott Hughes, CalPortland’s environmental manager for Arizona, along with support from the company’s management.

In cooperation with Wild at Heart Raptor Rescue, Arizona Game and Fish Department and Greg Clark (manager of the burrowing owl programme), the plan was put into action. Groundbreaking took place on 30 November and excavation of the twelve burrowing sites began in an area the size of a football field. On 10 December, a crew of 48 volunteers, along with the organisers, constructed 64 burrows.

Burrowing owls have been known to nest in piles of PVC pipe and other lairs unintentionally provided by humans. They live in open, treeless areas with low, sparse vegetation. The owls can be found in deserts, and steppe environments, on golf courses and agricultural fields, so CalPortland’s mining site turned out to be a perfect habitat. The owls eat bugs, rodents and other pests, therefore the location should provide sumptuous culinary opportunities for the residents as they go about raising their young and carrying on community business.

Female burrowing owls commonly travel and find several mates over their lifetime, while male owls usually remain in their territory courting other females. Upon filling the nest with eggs, hens stay in or near the nest burrow until the chicks fledge, while males stand guard at a nearby burrow or perch. Owlets play-hunt by jumping on each other, on prey brought by their parents, and on other objects around the burrow.

In mid-March the owls will be released into their new burrow community. The burrows will be covered by a tent for the one month. The owls will be fed ‘mousicles’ while they are getting comfortable in their new homes. After a month, the tents will be removed and the owls are free to come and go as they please. The organizers are optimistic that other burrowing owls in the area will quickly take up residence in the parliament. This particular specie of owl is listed as endangered in Canada and as a species with special protection in Mexico.

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