NORTH LAUDERDALE, Fla. – North Lauderdale assistant city manager Michael Sargis sent an email to Broward County School Board members Friday, admonishing them for allegedly having crews destroy five active burrowing owl mounds on the campus of North Lauderdale K-8.
“Burrowing Owls and their mounds are classified as State Threatened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and burrowing owls, eggs, and their young are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act -- damaging mounds and/or killing owls is punishable by huge fines and/or prison,” Sargis wrote.
The city has maintained the field at the school at 7500 Kimberly Blvd. for the last 50 years, and set up chain link fences around the mounds over the past 10 to 15 years to protect the owls.
But Sargis said in his email that “staff from the School Board destroyed all the mounds and burrows, destroyed and removed the fence, covered the areas in sand, including the burrows, as well as ran a heavy track-hoe over the area with the bucket down to compact the area of the mounds.”
According to his email, one burrow on the north side of the field had not yet been covered in sand.
He stated that the city expects the School Board to install a new chain link fence to protect all of the destroyed mounds.
“We have received calls from teachers that are upset, as are students, that their owls have been killed by the City -- we have told them that this was done by the School Board and not the City,” Sargis wrote.
According to Sargis, the city will put up some temporary fencing around the burrows, including the ones that were destroyed.
He said the city has notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Broward County Public Schools has a long history of being good environmental stewards and takes seriously our responsibility to protect burrowing owls across the District,” the school district said in a statement. “We are concerned that this situation occurred. District staff is working to determine how this happened and taking corrective measures at the site to protect the burrowing owls. We are also cooperating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in its investigation and will take any actions deemed necessary.”
According to the school district, only one mound was directly affected.
“We have no awareness that any owls have been harmed,” the district said.