Cape Coral adds more protections for burrowing owls

Wildlife advocates say they have been fighting for increased protection of burrowing owls for almost a decade, but some homeowners in Cape Coral are pushing back, since the city is considering more protections to the imperiled species within its borders.

Cape Coral City Council voted unanimously in favor of a new ordinance that updates protections for burrowing owls during public hearing at its meeting Monday.

“The contractors that are really new in the business, they may not be aware of all the regulations,” said Larry Denmark, CEO of Hammer Construction.

Denmark has built in Cape Coral for over 20 years and has great understanding of the rules and regulations protecting these native birds that seem to be all over the city.

“Even during the nesting season, you got to be 30 feet away from that nest, so that’s difficult on … [an] 80 foot lot,” Denmark said.

The current regulations protecting burrowing owls can also make it difficult to sell property in Cape Coral.

“For future home owners, they just don’t want to deal with the headache or have that kind of … notion in the back of their head that this is something they can get in trouble for,” said Christian Haag, co-owner of Douglas Realty and Development Inc.

Anyone found building without a permit or destroying an owl nest could be in trouble with the city if the new ordinance passes. The amendment allows Cape Coral police Department to go after violators of these new amendments immediately, instead of first having to contact Florida Fish and Wildlife for law enforcement.

The ordinance is something wildlife advocates such as Cheryl Anderson have fought for.

“The places where the owls live in the lots are being developed,” Anderson said. “So, it’s more important to have these rules now than ever to give them some protection.”

The ordinance adds new definitions, development standards, protections and permit procedures, exempt activities within protection zones, penalties and supplemental regulations that all apply to treatment of these animals in Cape Coral.

More than 2,500 burrowing owls are present in Cape Coral.

“They are the city bird,” Denmark said.

 

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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