Relocating Burrowing Owls across the State of Arizona

Burrowing OwlsWestern Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea)
These charming little owls live and raise their young underground, so they are at risk of being buried alive during construction projects. The Burrowing Owl is the only known owl that lives underground and is especially affected by land development and construction.

Burrowing owls are not able to dig their own burrows, but create homes in existing underground spaces. Deserted squirrel burrows, kangaroo rat mounds, coyote, fox, skunk and badger dens provide homes for these owls. Active both day and night, this little owl is vulnerable to mammals and other birds, and new construction in the Southwestern U.S. takes a major toll on their populations. The Burrowing Owl is Endangered in Canada, Threatened in Mexico, and a Species of Special Concern in Florida and much of the Western US. As Arizona continues to grow, one of the greatest challenges is to minimize the impact of growth on displaced wildlife, and the use of artificial burrows is now helping to counter this threat.

Wild At Heart has received regional and national recognition for its burrowing owl new habitat projects. In 1993, Bob and his wife “Sam” Fox, founders of Wild At Heart (WAH), identified this need and built the first artificial underground owl burrows in Arizona. Relocation programs continue today throughout the state.

In 2001, Greg Clark became Wild At Heart’s Burrowing Owl Habitat Coordinator. He expanded Wild At Heart’s rescue and relocation procedures and today this program continues to be recognized by conservation organizations, such as the 2011 John Muir Conservation Award and the 2014 Cox Conserves Hero Award.

Wild At Heart Burrowing Owl events are open to the public. Thousands of children and adults throughout Arizona have already helped build over 6,000 artificial burrow habitats, providing homes for 2,500+ Burrowing Owls. The need continues to grow each year.

Captured owls are cared for by WAH volunteers for a minimum of 90 days: 60 days at the WAH facility, and another 30 days at the new relocation site. This transitional period is necessary to break the owls’ bond with their former habitat.

During the spring (March – May), you can get outdoors and become directly involved in helping these wonderful little owls.  Watch our Facebook page for updates and announcements for dates or, contact Steve Thomas for more information about helping with this weekend project.

Burrowing Owl Introduction: Cox Conserves Heroes

Burrowing Owls of Arizona

Burrowing Owls: Their Natural History