The New BC Program
Burrowing Owls in BC were listed as extirpated in 1980. There were only sporadic sightings usually in the south Okanagan and occasionally in the Lower Mainland coastal areas such as the Fraser Delta and occasionally Vancouver Island.
The overall plan was to try and reintroduce a population back to the areas where they had historically lived (the southern Interior grasslands) in sufficient numbers that they would once again breed and sustain their population from year to year.
Earlier Recovery Work in BC
A first attempt was made in the 1980's to translocate owls from southern Washington back into BC. From 1983 to 1990, the BC Environment Ministry transplanted family units of owls from Washington State to BC release sites near Osoyoos and Vaseaux Lakes in BC. Over 500 birds, mostly juveniles, were translocated to a series of artificial burrows. By all reports the moves did not prove too disruptive to the birds who continued to care for their young. Unfortunately, despite large numbers of translocated birds and successful breeding by released owls in the field, the migratory return rates were low. The Washington State population was also beginning to decline. The program was discontinued in 1989.
A radically different approach was required if the reintroduction was to be seriously attempted once again. The new program would have to provide sufficient numbers of owls for release without the effects on external populations. The program would have to ensure that there was sufficient hunting and nesting habitat available for the owls. A successful recovery program would also need the cooperation and support of landowners government staff and non profit groups to accomplish the large amount of work required.