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Notice of permit

Regional or Local Number: SARA-PNR-2017-0370

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 73 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. SARA-PNR-2017-0370 is issued.

Scientific research for the conservation of the species
Activity necessary or beneficial to the species

This is an amendment to permit SARA-PNR-2016-0342. The purpose of the amendment is to change the release location of the captive burrowing owls from Canadian Forces Base Suffield to suitable habitat on adjacent non-federal lands. The second amendment is to enable the attachment of the satellite radio transmitters to owls while still in captivity at the zoo, approximately one week prior to release into enclosures, rather than at the release site. The following Description of Activity replaces the Description found on the original permit SARA-PNR-2016-0342: This permit allows the holder to disturb the residence of burrowing owls, to capture up to 6 juvenile burrowing owls on CFB Suffield, and to transport these juvenile owls off of federal lands to a qualified facility (Calgary Zoo) that will over winter the owls and enable the owls to pair based on DNA analysis. The permit also allows the holder to undertake supplemental feeding of dead mice to the owls and owlets for the entirety of the permit duration. Upon capture, each owlet will be weighed, and the permit holder or assistant will also measure the tail length, and length of the 9th primary of the wing to get an accurate age of the bird. This permit allows the holder to release paired yearling owls to non federal lands adjacent to CFB Suffield the following May (2017) into suitable breeding habitat within 5 km of the federal lands. The total number of owls to be released shall be at least equal to the number of owls taken from CFB Suffield in 2016. This permit allows the holder to place radio transmitters on the released burrowing owls. Surveyors will use call playbacks to locate nests. Peeper cameras will be used to monitor the young in the burrows. The smallest (i.e. youngest/lightest weight) 2 chicks of a brood may be captured approximately two weeks post hatching as they emerge from the burrow entrance. Each brood will receive supplemental food to help ensure that the last-hatched chicks will survive until emergence. Capture of nestlings will be done by using one-way walk-in traps. A dark hood will be placed on birds during the marking/banding process. Birds will be immediately placed in brooder boxes (with controlled temperature, light and humidity) and transported off of federal lands to the Calgary Zoo Animal Health Centre and captive-reared in enclosures for approximately 10 months. The owls will be paired and taught survival and hunting skills. The following spring the pairs will be released back into the same general area on lands adjacent to federal lands within 5 km of CFB Suffield. The pair will be soft-released (an open wire cage over a burrow) and fed supplemental food and held in the enclosure on the release site for up to two weeks to encourage site fidelity and egg laying). Each owl will be fitted with five-gram solar-powered satellite transmitters to monitor post-release movements, migration, and survival. The transmitters will be attached with a backpack-style Teflon ribbon harness. The satellite transmitters weigh < 5% of the owls’ body mass. Transmitters will be attached to owls while at the Calgary Zoo under the zoo staff supervision and monitoring, approximately one week prior to their soft release. By over-wintering juvenile owls in Canada and soft-releasing them within Canadian nesting grounds to breed as yearlings, the permit holders will assess whether forcing site fidelity (and thus increasing return rates to Canada after migration), concomitant with increasing overwinter survival, will increase the population of burrowing owls in future years. The permit holders will also place radio transmitters on the released owls to study post-release owl migration, to help elucidate whether yearling owls migrating from Canada tend to have high mortality rates on migration or on their wintering grounds, or whether they simply disperse to other locations to breed outside of the Canadian study area.

Start Date: 2017-04-10   End Date: 2017-06-15

Issuing Authority: Environment Canada

Authority Used:

  • Species at Risk Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • Alberta

Affected Species:

(a) All reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted. The alternative of releasing the owls on the Suffield Base where they were captured is not feasible due to the military exercises that may temporarily close sections of the base to access for up to several weeks. This would put the 14-day soft release monitoring and daily feeding in jeopardy. Suitable habitat adjacent the Suffield Base is better because it is not subject to these access closures. The alternative of attaching the radio transmitters at the release site is deemed less desirable than at the captive location because it is in a remote location and is more difficult to monitor the owls, will not have easy access to a veterinarian, and is in an unfamiliar environment that will already be putting stress on the birds. (b) All feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or the residences of its individuals. The amended release site is located on lands close enough to the site where the owlets were born on the Suffield Base to fall within the area that would have naturally been used by these owl pairs. In each of the past 5 years there have been wild owls successfully breeding on the property where the owls will be released. (c) The activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species. The amendment to the release location will not increase jeopardy because: the owls and their nests are protected by provincial law (Alberta Wildlife Act) on non-federal lands; the landholder is very conservation oriented; the land provides high quality habitat to the species ; the land is immediately adjacent to the Suffield Base so the owls can readily use or move to the Base if they choose to; burrowing owls have naturally low site-fidelity to their hatching site in the wild; breeding habitat is not limited in the area and, as such, the location of the release will not affect the success of this study and is part of a larger study that already encompasses lands surrounding the Base.

Contact Person(s)
Canadian Wildlife Service
Edmonton, Alberta
Phone: (867) 975-4633
Fax: (867) 975-4645