Who loves owls — SFU student from Comox Valley

Her plan has gone to the birds, but Laramie Ferguson said it is exactly what she had in mind.

WITH THE HELP of students from Valley schools

Her plan has gone to the birds, but Laramie Ferguson said it is exactly what she had in mind.

Ferguson, a fourth-year conservation biology student at Simon Fraser University, has created a project to aid in the conservation of raptors, particularly barn owls, in the Comox Valley.

The Valley-raised student explained the idea began when she started a course project focusing on a conservation action of her choosing.

“My love for birds started in first year when we had to bird watch. I really like it, and then I took a falconry course a year ago,” said Ferguson. “I learned that owls and other raptors are threatened and are an overall indicator of ecological health.”

She noted barn owls in particular have a very limited range in B.C., extending from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island. They are endangered provincially and federally in Canada due primarily to logging of old-growth forests, closing of barn structures and competition with barred owls.

To help recover the barn owl population, Ferguson created 20 nest boxes that will be distributed throughout the Comox Valley.

“They provide protection against the weather and predators, but they also provide a means for barn owls to reproduce where they are,” she added.

To construct the boxes, Ferguson received donated materials from local hardware stores and students from Mark Isfeld, G.P. Vanier, Cumberland Junior and Lake Trail Secondary schools aided in the construction.

This week, Ferguson is placing the boxes in various locations around the area, primarily agricultural areas with large, grassy pastures in barns about 15 to 20 feet off the ground.

Ferguson will take two boxes with her to Vancouver to have two wildlife cameras installed, which were donated by the Hancock Wildlife Foundation.

“I’m hoping to be able to broadcast a stream to the Comox Valley and Vancouver Island — similar to the eaglecam,” she said.

In addition to the cameras, Ferguson noted a representative from Environment Canada has expressed interest in monitoring the boxes on an annual basis to the barn owl population recovery.

To contact Ferguson about the project or to build a barn owl nest box for a suitable location, e-mail laramief@sfu.ca.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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