12 April 2013

Possible Nest Destruction by Omaha Project Being Evaluated by Feds

A potential illegal taking of an owl nest by a City of Omaha project is now being considered by the law enforcement section of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The taking might have occurred in association with the removal of all of the trees and associated vegetation for the CSO! project underway along the unnamed creek on the east side of the Westlawn Cemetery in central Omaha.

In late-March, according to protocols necessary to conform with state and federal regulations, a nest survey was done to determine if any bird nests might be present amidst the woods along the creek, prior to the clearing of all of the vegetation. No nests were apparently documented, according to a hired surveyor with indicative credentials. A couple of days later, all of the vegetation in this particular area was obliterated, resulting in an expanse of barren ground devoid of anything green, with certainly nothing left with any growing potential.

Subsequently, a young Great Horned Owl was found upon the ground in an area of woods adjacent to the cleared area, according to an official with the City of Omaha public works department and an official with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

There was also a pair of adult birds observed in the vicinity at this time, which indicated their residency, and seemingly that the young owl was their progeny. Some pictures of the little, fledgling owl were also taken by public works staff, for documentary purposes.

The fledgling owl was captured and taken to the Nebraska Humane Society facilities, then subsequently transferred to Raptor Rehabilitation Nebraska for further care.

Any "taking" of a nest of a species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a violation of this act, and fines may be imposed. The state of Nebraska has a similar statute.

The ecological services office of the Fish and Wildlife Service has received a letter indicating the particulars associated with the activities associated with this owl. This office also reviewed a draft version of this correspondence.

The final version has been submitted to the federal agency. It was then forwarded to law enforcement personnel of this federal agency, according to a FWS biologist.

On April 10th, a request was made to receive a copy of the letter submitted to the F.W.S. An email was received on the 11th indicating that a copy of the letter would not provided, as indicated by an official of the City of Omaha public works department. The FWS would also not provide a copy.

Those pictures of the owl at the site of its capture are also not available for public consideration.

The City of Omaha received a notice on June 24th that no enforcement action would be taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.