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Burrowing Owl fest raises $25,000 for environmental efforts

By Staff | Mar 21, 2019

Those who attended the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife’s Burrowing Owl Festival last month seemed to have had a “hoot” of a time, raising thousands of dollars for the non-profit dedicated to Cape Coral’s endangered species.

The Burrowing Owl Fest raised nearly $25,000 dollars, with proceeds going towards the group purchasing burrowing owl and gopher tortoise lots around the Cape so that their natural habitats are not disturbed by development.

“The turnout was fantastic – 1,000 more than last year,” said CCFW Vice President Pascha Donaldson, of the nearly 4,000 people that turned up to enjoy a day of nature, wildlife and education.

She hopes to see the group increase its numbers so that more people are aware of threatened species living in Cape Coral, many of which have been displaced from their homes as the city continues to grow and build.

“We want to increase our membership in order to help educate people who move here. Wildlife is an economic benefit to Cape Coral and important to maintain,” she said.

Nearly 50 new members signed up to be part of CCFW during the weekend, bringing the club to 220 members. Donaldson hopes to grow the number to 500 by the end of the year.

Species that the CCFW aims to protect are the burrowing owl, gopher tortoise, bald eagles, Florida scrub jays, manatees, purple martin and more.

Donaldson believes we are able to coexist with these species which were here years and years before Cape Coral was settled.

“As development occurs the protected species will become endangered and this will slow the building in Cape Coral. Keeping the burrowing owl and other protected species at a higher number allows growth. Living with wildlife is something that can occur if people are educated on ways to live with the wildlife, for example, putting a starter burrow in the front yard will help to maintain the burrowing owl population,” she said.

In a sad turn of events, Owliver and Owlivia, the two burrowing owls that were named at Ground-Owl Day, along with their nestlings, have not been seen at their burrow for some time, most likely having fallen victim to the food chain or close-by busy roadways, said Donaldson.

“They’ve disappeared. I’m not sure what got to them,” she said. “They did have babies, though there’s no sign of eggs at their burrow. At first the parents were gone and one baby was there, now none are. The parents never leave their baby alone.”

Unfortunately, this can be the way the circle of life works. Owliver and Owlivia II will be named next season, as the burrow at the Rotary Club Garden where a placard with their names has been placed.

Burrowing owl mating season runs from February-July. We are now in the midst of a time where conservation plays a big role in repopulation of the protected species.

The CCFW would also graciously accept donations of parcels of land that may have burrowing owl or gopher tortoise inhabiting them. Donaldson said that the group would name the site after the donor.

As a part of the SWFL Veg Fest, the CCFW was given a check for $1,000 to support their conservation efforts.

April 10 is Gopher Tortoise Day in Cape Coral. A proclamation was made in 2017 by the city, declaring the day for the threatened species in Florida.

For more information on the CCFW and to inquire about being a member, visit www.CCFriendsofWildlife.com or call 239-980-2593.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj