Cape Coral growth hurting burrowing owls

Posted at 10:38 PM, Feb 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-25 23:21:50-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- A growing population in Cape Coral may be hurting the threatened burrowing owl.

Cape Coral held it's annual Burrowing Owl Festival at Rotary Park, Saturday. Cape Coral Friend's of Wildlife's Pasha Donaldson told Fox 4 the owls are important for the environment, as well as the economy. People come from all over the world to photograph the owls. "I could every day do burrowing owl tours for people from literally allover the world," she said.

More than 3,000 people attended the festival, breaking a record for the event. This comes as Forbe's magazine names Cape Coral America's fastest growing city. However, the rapid growth is putting the burrowing owl at risk. "We are losing their habitat rapidly and we hope we protect them," said Donaldson.

To mitigate the growth, Cape Coral has updated some regulations when it comes to getting permits around where the owls live. "They are protected federally, state and they will be protected locally. When you commit a violation, there is a heavy fine and you do risk the chance of going to jail," said Donaldson. "If the burrow is in the blueprint of the house, they will okay it but it does take time."