Thousands flock to Burrowing Owl Fest
Nearly 20 years ago, the Burrowing Owl Festival started out with a few vendors and a couple hundred people dedicated to the official city bird.
On Saturday, thousands of people came to Rotary Park, some of them having to walk a half mile because it was the closest place to park, to learn not only about the owl, but to see other animals and learn about how we can do our part to save the bird, other species and the environment.
Lori Haus-Bulcock, an event organizer, said the 18th annual festival serves as the biggest fundraiser for the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and commemorates nesting season for the burrowing owls, which happens from December through May.
“We did a lot more publicity, even in Charlotte and Collier counties. With the condition of the water here, the environment is at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Haus-Bulcock said. “People are beginning to pay attention to organizations that have to do with the environment and that goes a long way to make the festival more popular.”
The event featured the 10 a.m. opening ceremony featuring Mayor Joe Coviello; more than three dozen vendors, most of them animal related; kids crafts; a bus tour of the burrowing owls nests; other live animals that people could see and touch; numerous discussions; and much more.
Coviello said that as the city continues to develop, it will become harder to find safe locations for the burrows where the owls live and nest.
“The burrowing owl represents our environment. We’re looking to the county to make 194 acres that abuts Four Mile Cove a part of Conservation 20/20,” Coviello said. “I believe the owls are pretty resilient, but we have parcels that we can use to put the owls to keep open space for them.”
Marlene Paulding, secretary of CCFW, had a table where she offered residents the opportunity to build a starter burrow in their yard, or to become an “Owl Landlord,” so to speak.
“The Cape Coral Wildlife Trust is promoting a starter burrow. We’re giving away a $50 gas card and T-shirts, and choose from all the applicants we get to be an owl landlord to win the promotion,” Paulding said. “It difficult to buy land, so we’re reaching out to property owners.”
Carl Veaux, president of CCFW, said they were hoping to raise enough money to buy lots through the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, where there are owls, gopher tortoises, bald eagles or any special species.
“Cape Coral is the fastest growing city in the nation and we need to find s place for our wildlife, if we’re to have any at all,” Veaux said. “We always try to get residents to put them in their yards because when they build a house, they collapse the burrow and the owls have nowhere to go.”
Among those visiting was Julie Beasley of Cape Coral, who loved the crafts and the educational nature of the event.
“You get to learn a lot about the wildlife here. We had some owl burrows in our yard, but I think they used it as a satellite burrow,” Beasley said. “I think the owls should be better protected. You only have to pay $1,900 for them to be removed, and you don’t know if they’re being removed properly.”