Burrowing owls get new ‘digs’ in East County

SAN DIEGO — A colony of Western burrowing owls found a new home in San Diego’s East County after conservationists decided relocating the birds was crucial for their species’ long-term survival in the region.

A conservation team made up of city, county, state and federal agencies — with help from other groups, including San Diego Zoo Global — helped transfer the 5 pairs of owls from Otay Mesa to the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve earlier this month.

The conservationists released the birds into “acclimation enclosures” with human-made burrows that will help the owls feel at home.

The move is part of an over-arching strategy to provide a safe place to breed in the county and reduce the risk of local extinction.

“All of the burrows currently have eggs in them,” said Colleen Wisinski, conservation program specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. “The birds have hopefully realized that it’s a safe place, and they would want to try to breed here. So, we are really excited to see what they do over the next several months or years if they stick around.”

The conservation team will continue to monitor the birds over the next few years.