“When I came to the [decommissioned chemical weapons] depot to work on the burrowing owl project, there were three or four pairs and we knew this was the last of them. And it’s really hard to recover from zero. So then the question is: what do you do?”
As director of the Global Owl Project, biologist and self-described “owl person” David H. Johnson has answered that question. Since 2010, he’s created a thriving habitat in Umatilla, Oregon for these endangered ground dwellers.
Johnson builds burrows out of plastic barrels, five-gallon buckets, wire mesh, and irrigation tubes, artificial stand-ins for the once-plentiful but now non-existent burrows that were made by badgers and prairie dogs before human activity drove the animals away. The DIY burrows have created a singular site for scientific research, too.
This Oregon Public Broadcasting video documents Johnson’s work and the long-legged strigiformes he works so hard to conserve.
Watch this next: The Burrowing Owl’s Cozy Underground Home, a cute stop-motion mix from six months of photos.