Video: Digging in for burrowing owls in the Okanagan/Nicola Valley

Executive director Lauren Meads and Pluto of the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society. Mark Brett/Western News
Pluto, the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society education owl. Mark Brett/Western News
Volunteers head out to the den sites on private land near Cawston where burrowing owls nest. Mark Brett/Western News
Devika Shah of the World Wildlife Fund Canada shovels some of the dirt from an existing den. Mark Brett/Western News
Volunteer Allen Hartman helps work mates with the removal of an old den. Mark Brett/Western News
Volunteers work to create a new den for returning burrowing owls near Cawston. Mark Brett/Western News

They came, they saw and they dug — then they dug a little more.

About 25 people armed with picks, shovels and other earth-moving utensils ventured out onto a large tract of private land southeast of Cawston to help some pint-sized critters in their comeback attempt.

The recent outing was the second of three working sessions which are part of a pilot project of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada in conjunction with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C.

Related: Volunteers who give a hoot wanted for burrowing owl work party

The final work party is Saturday at the Quilchena Resort near Merritt from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and there are still plenty of places left.

Those wanting to help can register at http://www.wwf.ca/what_you_can_do/be_a_wildlifer.cfm##bc

“We were only expecting 10 or 15 people for this one (Cawston) but it really surged the last couple of days and I think everyone is having a good time,” said BOCS executive director Lauren Meads after the group had finished lunch and were headed back out into the field.

“We’ve installed four burrows and we’re working on our last two and that’s hopefully going to provide nesting opportunities for some more owls in the future.”

It’s estimated the work, replacing and repairing the man-made dens, done by the volunteers on this day will help more than 300 owls over the next two decades.

“It’s been really good with WWF, we’ve been able to highlight all of our major areas and to reach out to people who may not have helped before,” added Meads.

Helping out the volunteers on this particular day was Devika Shah, WWF senior manager who made the trip out from Ontario to get a first hand look at how the project was going.

“We got involved in this to see what kind of role we could play to help more Canadians get involved with hands-on conservation,” said Shah, taking a break from her digging.

“Our Living Planet Report released a year ago showed that over 50 per cent of monitored species that are in decline and they’ve declined 83 per cent in the last 40 years.

“So if we don’t have a large constituency of Canadians helping, partly in doing things like this, but also speaking up for nature in a variety of ways, if that doesn’t happen then these numbers are not going to turn around.”

Helping out was Stephen Neumann an employee of the society’s namesake Burrowing Owl Estate Winery but his reason’s for taking part go beyond his day job.

“A love of nature,” he said about volunteering.

“These beautiful little birds need our help and I finally got the chance to be able to come it’s not always easy to find the time but when you do it’s well worth it.”

Related: Down and dirty for South Okanagan burrowing owls

Allen Hartman and his wife read about the need for volunteers in the Western News.

“My wife said they are doing this today and she said; ‘I think we should go,’ and we’re retired and volunteering is something that we really like doing,” said Hartman.

“She really likes animals and it’s a really good cause.”

And those words were music to Shaw’s ears: “We need people to be part of this equation.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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