The Burrow Buddies Club at Tommie Barfield Elementary School is making a difference by teaching everyone to respect the owls and gopher tortoises in our neighborhood.
Through creative and colorful signs, the 16 club members of third and fifth graders are taking action in protecting both species by raising awareness about the dangers of vehicular strikes and rodenticide poisoning.
Led by teacher Stephanie Parker and Brittany Piersma, staff biologist for the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE), the Burrow Buddies Club meets once a month to create signs encouraging people to “Let Them Be” and “Slow Down, Burrowing Owls Nearby”. The students are passionate about protecting the burrowing owl and gopher tortoises of Marco and have used their creativity to make signs with owl and gopher tortoise photos, colorful drawings, and slogans.
The students are also learning about the dangers of rodenticide poisoning. The common practice of using highly potent rodenticide or rat poison to kill rats can accidentally poison raptors, cats, and dogs - including owls. The students are encouraging people to use Good Nature CO2 traps which are non-toxic and kinder for the pest and other wildlife.
The students are also raising awareness about the misuse of mothballs. Around late October, several bags of mothballs were discovered inside a burrow, which could have had lethal effects. The students want people to understand how they would feel if they were these animals and to respect their habitat.
Marco is a perfect living laboratory for conservation and the Burrow Buddies Club members are very lucky to learn about the burrowing owls and gopher tortoises first hand. During nesting season, they will observe a live pair of nesting burrowing owls on school grounds, and near gopher tortoise burrows a mile away.
The Burrow Buddies Club is teaching everyone to be agents of change by making a difference locally one owl or gopher tortoise at a time. As you drive or walk around Marco, be sure to stop and read the signs created by these passionate students. With their rapid loss of habitat on Marco, the window to “take action” to keep these species locally is slowly shrinking. Conservation starts with one sign, and TBE’s Burrow Buddies Club is a great start.