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COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Burrowing Owl in Canada

Existing Protection or Other Status Designations

Burrowing Owls are currently classified as G4 (apparently secure globally, although they may be quite rare in parts of their range) by the Nature Conservancy, with provincial Natural Heritage designations of S1B in British Columbia and Manitoba, and S2B in Saskatchewan and Alberta. S2B refers to a species that is either very rare or local throughout its range, or found locally in a restricted range. S1B is defined as species that are critically imperiled because of rarity, or because of some factor of its biology making it especially vulnerable to extinction. Summaries of the existing protection and legal status of Burrowing Owls in the United States and Canada can be found in Klute et al. (2003), McDonald et al. (2004), and on the NatureServe website (www.natureserve.org/explorer).

In Canada, the Burrowing Owl is nationally assessed as Endangered (COSEWIC 2001, 2006). Provincially, the species is listed as Endangered in Manitoba (www.gov.mb.ca/natres/wildlife/index.html), Endangered in Alberta (Alberta Fish and Wildlife 2006). In Saskatchewan, it is Endangered (http://www.se.gov.sk.ca/ecosystem/speciesatrisk/). It is also listed as Endangered in nearby Minnesota (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ets/birds.html), as a Species of Concern in Montana (http://nhp.nris.state.mt.us/animal/index.html), and as a Candidate Species (for listing as Endangered, Threatened, or Sensitive) in Washington (http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/candidat.htm).

The primary, on-the-ground protection efforts in Alberta and Saskatchewan are to engage private landowners in taking an interest in preserving remaining Burrowing Owls and their habitat (e.g., Operation Burrowing Owl, Operation Grassland Community), enhancing foraging habitat, and monitoring reproductive success in areas where owls remain relatively common. Such efforts are typically oriented towards private stewardship, whereby landowners are encouraged to protect areas that are identified as important nesting and foraging sites. In Saskatchewan, Operation Burrowing Owl has succeeded in slowing the rate at which grasslands are converted to cropland (Warnock and Skeel 2004).