Florida Atlantic University Gives A Hoot

October 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, Endangered Encounters, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Check out Florida Atlantic University’s hooters!  Seriously, check them out, they’re adorable!  FAU has more on campus than just their mascot owl, it is home to many Burrowing Owls and Gopher Tortoises.  On the lack side of the stadium, next to a parking lot and just behind the airport, you will find a beautiful grassy area that is home to FAU’s resident creatures.  FAU has done a wonderful job of preserving habitats for these animals, making it easy for everyone to enjoy them but safe enough for the animals so they don’t feel threatened by anyone watching.

The Gopher Tortoise is an endangered species and federally protected.  It is experiencing loss of habitat everywhere it lives, so designated scantuaries like this are extremely important to help with the survival of the species.  There are “Tortoise Crossing” signs all over to remind students to watch where they’re driving in case they decide to leave their designated area for any reason.  The tortoises are fairly shy, usually retreating to their holes when they see or sense humans nearby.

While not considered endangered or threatened, the Burrowing Owl is considered a “species of concern” by the FWC, meaning they’re protected on a state level from and type of harassment.  They’re a small owl, only around 9 inches tall, with bright yellow eyes (as adults) and lack the tell-tale owl ear tufts.  They live in treeless prarie grasslands and as their name suggests, they nest by burrowing into the ground.  Sometimes they will take over old Gopher Tortoise burrows but they typically dig their own, anywhere from 4 – 8 foot burrows, where they nest and live as mating pairs.  Unlike most other owls, they’re active at all hours, which is nice for those of us who like to observe them.  These particular photos were taken about an hour or so before sunset, always a beautiful time of day and great for observing all kinds of wildlife.

Having lived just minutes from FAU for most of my life and even going to the school, I can honestly tell you it was only recently that I have actually seen these little guys.  Maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough, or maybe the teenager in me wasn’t REALLY trying to find them, but I never could.  Their scantuary near the stadium makes it easy to observe and photograph them.  They seem to be used to human presence.

Of course, that’s not to say they stay in their designated area, they’ll set up shop pretty much anywhere a person doesn’t typically walk and they can make (or find) a hole in the ground.  The adult and juvenile pictured below were by the student apartments next to a busy parking lot.  In the case that they do decide to move in wherever they please, the school fences off the area they’re in puts up a T perct nearby.  I was happy to see them in random locations throughout the campus, the more owls the merrier!

IF YOU GO:

You may want to skip a day in which FAU has a football game at home, they’re next to a parking lot just off the stadium.  Let’s face it, wildlife viewing and tailgating don’t really mesh well.  They’re here all year long so don’t worry.

Remember, the Gopher Tortoise is endangered and the Burrowing Owls are protected as well.  Give them their space and don’t disturb them.  Under no circumstances should you go over the fence and into their designated areas.

Photos taken with my Nikon D3100

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