More owls to be released at MCC

Courtesy<br>
Members of the Mohave Community College Science Club on the Kingman campus inspect one of the burrowing owl relocation habitats behind the campus. Kneeling clockwise from left are: Elissa Fetty, club secretary; Karlie Lewis, club president; members Cindy King and Alex Haubert; and Patti Lager, faculty adviser.  Another pair of owls is to be introduced at the site April 1.

Courtesy<br> Members of the Mohave Community College Science Club on the Kingman campus inspect one of the burrowing owl relocation habitats behind the campus. Kneeling clockwise from left are: Elissa Fetty, club secretary; Karlie Lewis, club president; members Cindy King and Alex Haubert; and Patti Lager, faculty adviser. Another pair of owls is to be introduced at the site April 1.

KINGMAN – More adult burrowing owls will soon arrive to take up residence on the Neal Campus – Kingman of Mohave Community College.

Wild at Heart, a non-profit organization with an aviary in Cave Creek, introduced six burrowing owls to the campus last March 19. The owls had never before been relocated from the low deserts around Phoenix to a high desert region like Kingman as part of an effort to provide new habitat. About 1,000-2,000 acres of agricultural lands the birds live in is being lost per month to housing and commercial development around the state capitol, said Greg Clark, coordinator of the Burrowing Owl Project for Wild at Heart.

In the past year, 96 owl burrows have been excavated on the Kingman campus of MCC. The ultimate goal is to have about 50 owls living in them.

“We opened up 16-20 burrows for that first release and will open another 16 (on April 1),” Clark said. “We determine how many owls are at a site by seeing how many burrows are in use and counting pellets.

“What we’re really interested in is how many eggs are laid and babies hatched. We place inspection tubes at the burrows to make the process easier.”

Burrowing owls are considered endangered in Canada, Clark said.

Wild at Heart has three other owl release sites in the Southwest – Cochise, Prescott Valley and St. George, Utah.

Clark said there are a total of 32 burrows at two sites in Cochise. There are owls at both sites, but there was no evidence of breeding there last year.

There already were owls in Prescott Valley before more were released there. It was impossible to determine which newborn owls resulted from breeding of the introduced adults vs. owls already living there, Clark said.

“The experiment in St. George failed,” he said. “But something either ran them off or there was an avian predator that killed them. We’re trying to find a new grassland site on the Arizona Strip south of Colorado City, where there already are some owls. The problem lies in the difficulty of getting a backhoe into that area to excavate burrows.”

Male owls tend to remain at a release site year-round and guard their burrow(s). It is not known where females go from a release site, but they normally return the following spring to breed with a resident male.

Two adult males are believed to be at the MCC campus.

“The pairs laid 10-12 eggs last year, but it’s hard to say how many survived,” Clark said.

“Predators such as snakes and rats probably got some of them, and those that did survive dispersed.”

Clark said he may bring 6-10 new owls to Kingman. Numbers to be dispersed to release sites depend on how many arrive in Cave Creek at the Wild at Heart apiary.

Apiary numbers approaching 90 means it’s time to relocate up to a dozen birds, Clark said.

The Mohave Community College Science Club keeps tabs on the owls here. Club President Karlie Lewis said 15 or more volunteers are needed to help erect tents April 1 that the new owls will remain under for about 30 days as they acclimate themselves to a new environment.

“I believe the project is going very well,” Lewis said. “I’ve seen a couple of owls and they look healthy and good.”

Anyone interested in helping as a volunteer April 1 may contact Lewis at 530-3360.

“It’s going to be a long time before we know all the ingredients for a successful site, but Kingman has two of the main ingredients,” Clark said.

“It has flat, open terrain with no trees and a plentiful food supply for the owls, beginning with insects and small rodents and followed by doves and lizards.”