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Endangered burrowing owls to be released on First Nations land in B.C.

Endangered burrowing owls to be released on First Nations land in B.C.
Technology
Burrowing owl siblings peek out from their nest at Green Tree Golf Club in Vacaville, Calif., Wednesday, June 2, 2010. (AP/Photo, The Reporter, Rick Roach)

Published Friday, April 8, 2016 4:11PM EDT

MERRITT, B.C. -- Burrowing owls will be released on First Nations land for the first time in British Columbia with the goal of reintroducing the endangered birds on a reserve near Merritt, B.C.

Upper Nicola Band member Bernadette Manuel says three pairs of the pop-can sized brown and white owls will be released into burrows that have been built for them.

Manuel says the First Nation has been working on the federally funded project for over two years in partnership with species-at-risk biologists and the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC.

The society, which annually releases the birds in the southern Interior, has raised the six owls at a site in Kamloops for a year.

Manuel says each pair is expected to breed before they migrate south as far as Mexico, and the band hopes they will return to the habitat where burrowing owls were once culturally significant.

Species-at-risk biologist Chris Gill, who is working on the project, says the owls live in burrows built by badgers and marmots but when their numbers decreased due to loss of grassland habitat, the owls started disappearing too.
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