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Owls at Foothills

Q

In mid-february we learned that Physical Plant Services (PPS) was planning
to remove a large nest on the southeast corner of the third floor of FL2.
We wrote to PPS, alerting it to the fact that we had a pair of nesting
great horned owls, and strongly requested that it leave the nest alone. We
received the following response:

"We have absolutely no intention of evicting any residents from the nest
on the south face of FL2. We do hope to remove the nest eventually, for
numerous reasons [note: no reasons were given], but certainly not while
it's occupied. [We] had no idea that an owl family had taken up residence.
[Our] visit earlier was simply reconnaissance. We'll have to rent a rather
tall lift to reach and remove the nest, and had been tentatively planning
to do so next month. Since the lift is pretty expensive, we were surveying
the nest and area in advance to avoid any surprises or delays once it
arrived. Having been properly surprised earlier today, we'll stand by
indefinitely on the rental and removal of the nest."

On either the evening of July 23 or early in the morning on July 24, the
nest was destroyed with no warning and no chance to talk about this
further. We can only assume PPS did indeed take the threatened action,
although a call to them to verify this has not been returned.

Thousands of people watched this beautiful pair of owls nest and
successfully raise two babies. People of all ages, including may groups of
schoolchildren, visited in person, and we know that many, many more logged
on to the owl cam multiple times a day to watch the babies hatch, grow, and
ultimately fly away. After their departure, the nest became home to
sparrows who built their own nest within the sticks. They were hopping
around sadly looking for their nest the day it was destroyed.

We would like an explanation as to why this decision was made and why the
action was carried out in secrecy during off-hours. We would also like to
know to whom we should direct the public's phone calls and e-mails this
fall/winter when people begin to anticipate the return of the great horned
owls to NCAR.

Answered on August 11, 2008

A

Removal of the nest had been in Maintenance's work order system for some
time, and was put on hold while the nest was occupied by owls. Because the
nest was not anchored to the building, and was estimated to weigh in excess
of 40 pounds, it was considered a hazard to the health and safety of
employees and visitors using the front entrance of FL2. The nest was
observed for any additional inhabitants or eggs. Sparrows or house finches
were observed feeding on the insects that were feeding on the feces and
remains of small animals that were left behind by the owls. The outstanding
work order was completed during normal work hours by maintenance staff
working from the roof of FL2.

A call was made to the PPS employee quoted in this question, who was on
vacation at the time. Upon the PPS employee's return, this person responded
to the caller's phone mail message on August 4, and left a phone mail
message for the caller, whose message indicated that they were on vacation.
A message was left for the caller, and as of the date of this response, the
caller has not responded to the message from PPS.

Please contact John Pereira, director of PPS, at ext. 1128 or
pereira@ucar.edu with any questions or comments.

--JOHN PEREIRA,
DIRECTOR OF PHYSICAL PLANT SERVICES