Owls left homeless after South Florida school crews destroy burrows, officials say

Officials in a South Florida city are demanding a state investigation after it claimed school crews in Broward County destroyed owl mounds Friday, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

North Lauderdale officials said the actions left the burrowing owl population homeless.

“They damaged our owls,” Mike Sargis, North Lauderdale assistant city manager, told the newspaper. “I’m very mad. We’ve cared for these things for 10 to 15 years. It’s very disturbing. They are very cute little animals.”

The mounds are located on land measuring 10 feet by 10 feet at the North Lauderdale Pre-K-8 School, according to the Sun-Sentinel. City officials are in charge of caring for the property, and they said school district officials knew about the owls, which had created five burrows to shelter themselves from predators.

The burrows were isolated by a chain-link fence, but Sargis said crews took down the fence Friday, filled the mounds with sand and then used heavy equipment to smooth out the ground, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“The mounds weren’t in anybody’s way,” Sargis told the newspaper. “We don’t have a clear explanation. Nobody from the school board would give us one. The guy out there says he was told to do it. He said the fences were in the way.”

Katherine Koch, the district's chief communications officer, said district officials were concerned and staff members were trying to determine what happened, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“Broward County Public Schools has a long history of being good environmental stewards and takes seriously our responsibility to protect burrowing owls across the District,” Koch said in a written statement.

The school district is “taking corrective measures at the site to protect the burrowing owls. We are also cooperating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in its investigation and will take any actions deemed necessary."

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