'Downtown Owls' saving Valley owls in danger

PHOENIX - His name is Marty. He's about 10 inches tall, weighs less than a stick of butter, and he's the reason three local groups are now working together to try and save Arizona's Burrowing Owl population.

The project is called "Downtown Owls" and it's a collaboration between the Audobon Society, Wild at Heart and the City of Phoenix.

"We have a great habitat for them and it's an opportunity to really keep them off the endangered list because they are in decline all throughout their range," said Bob Fox with Wild at Heart.

Fox says that while Burrowing Owls like Marty were once common in the Valley, construction and expansion have damaged the population.

"They're small and people don't see them so their burrows can be crushed by heavy equipment and the owls are basically buried alive," said Cathy Wise of the Audobon Society.

To save the owls, project organizers are relocating owls from construction sites and other areas to a new home in the Rio Salado Restoration Area.

14 owls have already been located. Marty was found in a burrow in Cesar Chavez Park in bad shape.

"We really couldn't return him to the wild so we decided to turn him into our educational bird," said Fox.

Volunteers have played a major role in the project. More than 300 people have spent time building new burrows for the birds out of PVC pipe.

Project organizers say more volunteers are always needed, if interested contact the Arizona Audobon Society at 602-468-6470.

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