Cape Coral UEP project destroys burrowing owl nests

CREATED Feb. 10, 2014

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CAPE CORAL-- The Cape Coral Utilities Expansion Project is ruffling some feathers in one neighborhood where contractors wiped out a nest of burrowing owls.  

Adelaide Rainery lives across the street from where the nest used to be, and said the owls have been a neighborhood favorite for years.  

"I love them, they're beautiful... the whole neighborhood stops by and people come in cars and stop to see them," Rainery said. 

Contractors covered up the owls' hole on Thursday to prepare to put in a fire hydrant as part of the UEP project.

Rainery said she saw the owls in their nest Thursday morning, just hours before contractors wiped out the nest.  

According to City of Cape Coral spokeswoman Connie Barron, the city has a permit to destroy 60 burrowing owl nests, as long as the nests aren't active.  Nests are active anytime an owl egg or baby is present, or during nesting season which starts February 15. 

Since it isn't nesting season, FWC granted the City of Cape Coral the right to "gently flush away" any juvenile or adults owls present at a nest.

Barron said a certified ecologist used a camera to ensure no eggs were present in the nest before destroying it. 

The City has worked closely with Cape Coral Friends of the Wildlife group to preserve burrowing owl nests and habitats for other species.  Member and past president Pascha Donaldson said as long as contractors followed procedures of inspecting the nest before demolishing it, it's allowed under the permit.  

Donaldson said she would like to see City officials conserve the nests and move owls' habitats to a nearby location if they are going to remove a nest.  

So far, 13 nests have been removed, Barron said.

Owl season or not, the neighbors who have visited the owls daily for the last several years, feel it's never appropriate to brush the protected animals away from their homes. 

"It's really depressing and it's disgusting," Rainery said.