Saturday, October 22, 2011
Even in the FL Everglades.
Sugar cane growers in the vast Florida Everglades Agricultural area tried for years to rid themselves of the North American Barn Owl.
Now they're inviting owls back.
Growers used to think the Barn Owl hunters were a nuisance, leaving behind a nasty mess in barns, silos, pump houses and on equipment. But now the messy pellets provide clues to the owls' newfound popularity.
Cotton rats and marsh rabbits that attack the 430,000 acres of Florida cane fields at night. They munch down on the sweet stalks, causing more than $30 million in damage a year.
On top of that, growers use to spend from $5 to $10 an acre on chemicals to try to kill the rodents.
Nature offers one of the best answers ... the barn owl
But the Everglades Agricultural area is an old swamp, with few trees and structures to encourage the owls to nest , pump houses dotted along the networks of canals that weave through sugarcane fields were long popular as nesting sites. But these pump houses are disappearing now that canal irrigation is automated.
So, even though growers now want the owl around, "the owls really had no where to go". The answer is installation of nest boxes designed especially for the owls. The plan is to put as many boxes as possible, to help grow the owl population.
Over the past 10-15 years, members of the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) community have also installed artificial nest boxes throughout the Palm Beach County to increase the regional density of Barn Owls in the FL Everglades.
Owl Prowl 2011
A group of students in an all day hands on field trip where they learn about south Florida agriculture, barn owls, build and raise an owl box, dissect owl pellets, and go on an owl prowl.
Barn Owls also provide a unique opportunity for local students to learn about the ecology of the EAA in a hands-on manner. The students also have built many of the barn owl nest boxes, and thus have gained an appreciation for ecologically friendly agricultural practices.