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YES! You Can Build

Building on a Lot with a Burrowing Owl Present

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Burrowing  Owls located in Cape Coral is that you can’t build a home if there is a Burrowing Owl or burrow  on your property.

This myth is simply not true.  Here is the scoop.

Over the past several years, Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife has been documenting every burrow they find in the City.  Armed with  GPS units, the club obtained the GPS coordinates of over 2700 Burrowing Owl burrows. This information is then given to the City and put in the City data base. Now when a permit is pulled to build a home or business, the City is aware that a burrow exists on the property.  Before the permit is issued, the site is checked for the burrow. Also, builders must complete a Burrowing Owl/Gopher Tortoise Affidavit, stating they have checked the site, and they must note if they suspect they have any burrows of either protected species on site.

If the burrow entrance can be protected by a 10 foot RADIUS  throughout construction,          ( using a silk screen on 2-3 sides only)-including grading work and utility hookups as well as the building, driveways and sidewalks required, , warning signs, orange flagging tape and white PVC stakes are erected creating a 10 foot diameter  alerting workers that the site is to be protected, construction can then proceed.This is only allowed if not nesting season. (Aug.-Jan) During nesting season (Feb.-July) a 33 ft. perimeter must be utilized with a silk screen on 2-3 sides only.

If the burrow is located in the way of any of the above construction work, a 10 foot diameter is installed and construction must be delayed until the builder, owner or agent of either applies to the State of Florida for a permit. The permit when issued will allow the burrow to be destroyed when it is determined by a professional that there are no owls  present with  signs of eggs, or flightless young. The burrow can only be destroyed once it is determined all chicks have fledged, that is, are able to fly long distances for protection. It is important to allow enough time for the parents to teach survival skills to their young.  Site visits are conducted by trained professionals, and at times the burrow is scoped using a tube like camera to determine what is going on. A permit to remove a burrow can be applied for any time of year. Contractors and homeowners should apply ASAP when they know they will need a permit to remove one.  It is actually important not to wait for July 10th to start the application process as to can take up to three months to process. The property owner, or, someone they assign to represent them such as an environmental consultant, applies for the permit online. Harming the burrow or owl is a third degree felony.

A consultant IS required to prepare a report for FWC/ and the city regarding the status of the burrow.  Permits are often issued prior to the time the permittee is actually allowed to execute the permit.  Permits are typically  valid for a period of one year from date of issuance. Property owners who feel their ability to utilize their yards has been compromised by a burrow may also apply for permit, and sometimes those permits are given. An adjacent lot with burrows must also be staked out for the protection if construction workers or trucks will be on the property. Maintaining the population is to the best interest to prevent the Burrowing from becoming endangered. More restrictions will be put on the building processif the population continues to decline. Working together to protect the Burrowing Owls is a win win for all.