The following information was generously provided by Avianna Jones. Her letter to the editor appears in the May 6, 2010 issue of he Town Crier. Readers are referred here to see information on the owl's legal status and photos of the owl (one above and one at the bottom).
To the Editor:
Burrowing owls are listed as endangered, threatened, or a species of special concern in most states where they occur. In California, populations are declining and they are listed as a species of Special Concern.
The legal status of the burrowing owl (From Appendix F, California Department of Fish and Game Report on Burrowing Owl Mitigation, September 25, 1995):
"The burrowing owl is a migratory species protected by international treaty under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703-711). The MBTA makes it unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, purchase or barter any migratory bird listed in 50 C.F.R. Part 10, including feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, or products, except as allowed by implementing regulations (50 C.F.R. 21). Sections 3505, 3503.5, and 3800 of the California Department of Fish and Game Code prohibit the take, possession, or destruction of birds, their nests or eggs. ... Disturbance that causes nest abandonment and/or loss of reproductive effort (e.g., killing or abandonment of eggs or young) may be considered "take" and is potentially punishable by fines and/or imprisonment."
“Take” is defined in the MBTA to include by any means or in any manner, any attempt at hunting, pursuing, wounding, killing, possessing or transporting any migratory bird, nest, egg, or part thereof.
Individuals or organizations may be fined up to $15,000, and may face up to six months imprisonment for misdemeanor violations of the Act. Felony violations may result in fines of up to $250,000 for individuals, $500,000 for organizations, and up to two years imprisonment.
The MBTA protects all native birds and excludes only non-native birds and birds classified as game during designated seasons. A list of protected birds may be found on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/RegulationsPolicies/mbta/mbtandx.html. The California Department of Fish and Game has published a report “Guidance for Burrowing Owl Conservation”: http://www.thebirdersreport.com/BUOW_Guidance_14_April_2008-CDFG.pdf.
We are so fortunate to live in a place with so many beautiful birds. They deserve our respect and protection as they work tirelessly to raise the next generation. Hopefully they will succeed and mountain residents and visitors will continue to be blessed by their presence.