Save the Owls!

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) 2019

The Burrowing Owls in the park, when they come, deserve the best protection we can offer. The current fence around the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary in the northeast corner of the park is not adequate. It is too low and has big gaps between the cables. Off-leash dogs easily breach the fence and invade the owl habitat. Owls have been killed and injured. The owls need a better fence.

The petition calls on the City of Berkeley to approve a new fence that gives the owls more security. This project will not cost the City money. The Chavez Park Conservancy will raise the money from private donations. A local contractor is prepared to do the work. But the City needs to act fast. The owls, if they come, may arrive as early as October.

The petition is available online here. Volunteers will also gather signatures on paper on weekends in the park. If you would like to help with this campaign please contact

Petition to Berkeley City Council And Berkeley City Manager

I love the Burrowing Owls.  They deserve protection.  The existing fence is not adequate to protect them.  The owls need a better fence, tall and tight enough to give them security.  And the fence route needs to be amended so that the Open Circle viewpoint (“the Spiral”) is open to the public all year round. Please take care of this promptly before the Burrowing Owls come this winter.  

Save the Owls!

I love the Burrowing Owls. They deserve protection. The existing fence is not adequate to protect them. The owls need a better fence, tall and tight enough to give them security. And the fence route needs to be amended so that the Open Circle viewpoint (“the Spiral”) is open to the public all year round. Please take care of this promptly before the Burrowing Owls come this winter.

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120 signatures = 24% of goal

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Add to the number collected online the 310 paper-and-ink signatures collected Sept. 11 at the Solano Stroll.

What else can we do to protect the Burrowing Owls?

(1) Talk to the City Arts Commission. The fence is on the agenda on September 21 in a Zoom meeting at 2:30 pm. Click here for the Zoom link. The Arts Commission is involved because it hired the artists and approved the fence design in 2010-2011. The members need to learn that park visitors who love the owls don’t necessarily love the fence.

(2) Write to the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Its head is Glenn Phillips, The Audubon chapter had a representative on the committee that approved the fence design in 2010-2011. The chapter’s current leadership needs to hear that a design that seemed reasonable more than a decade ago no longer works. There are less owls now and more people with dogs. It’s time to upgrade owl security.

(3) Write to the City. The person in charge of the Burrowing Owl area is Bruce Pratt, Park Superintendent, The City needs to move on this issue before the migrating owls’ winter arrival. If they come, they may show up as early as October.

The Conservancy has asked local contractors for proposals, and received one that merits priority. This fence contractor can build a fence with horizontal stainless steel cables, like the current one, but it will be 4 feet high and the cables will be 4 inches apart. It will have steel posts and a steel top rail, all anodized and in a color that blends in with the background. Such a fence will have high transparency combined with security, weather resistance and strength. The Conservancy will raise the funds to pay for it once the City gives the green light.

Part of the new fence proposal is to amend the route of the fence so as to leave the Open Circle seating area (aka the Spiral) open to the public year round. The public has been needlessly shut out of this area for half the year. No owls have resided near there for a long time, and allowing public access will not threaten them. This seating area is the only vantage point from which owls roosting on the rocks can be observed. It’s also the prime all-around bird viewing spot on the east side of the park. Opening the Spiral to the public year round will raise public appreciation and respect for these special birds.

There is no guarantee that Burrowing Owls will come to the park again, or that they will settle in any particular area. This past spring, one owl that had settled in the Sanctuary suffered a broken wing, consistent with a dog attack, and disappeared the next day. The last time that an owl was killed in the park, no owls at all came the following year. If we want to see these beloved birds, we have to be better hosts. They don’t ask much. The least we can provide is a safe place for them to settle and spend the winter.

Learn more — much more — about the Burrowing Owls in Cesar Chavez Park:

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16 thoughts on “Save the Owls!

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  • Martin: I had no idea it would be so difficult to improve the fence. The artists are not making sense to me. We’ll have to over ride them somehow, i guess. Build the good new fence near the other one? Maybe the Berkeley Council could talk to the artists? I’ll ask.

  • To Maureen Dagget’s most recent post: I have spoken face to face with the two artists and also emailed with them. Most recently I offered to pay them to redesign the fence. They have refused to consider the idea. They consider their art more important than the birds.

  • Regarding the Owls and the fence and according to the Berkeley Civic Arts Council at their last meeting which i attended on zoom , the artist who designed the fence that was commissioned to protect the owls, or it could have as an art exhibit been placed anywhere in the park, this artist refuses now to change his creation to make it fit it’s original purpose. We need to talk to the artist. Or move his work to another place in the park and build a protective fence for the owls. The civic Arts council is adament that it is up to the artist and that we cannot speak to him, only they can. they were not nice to Martin, one threatened to sue him for saying they didnt care about the owls. I asked about the artist and they disconnected me. We cannot meet in person at the Berkeley city council or elsewhere in our civic offices with the people we voted in this offices. this is not our usual democratic process. this is pure environmental activity to care for the migrating owls and need not become some political chaos.

  • I was very disappointed to see 2 people sitting on the concrete bench inside of the owl sanctuary, clearly ignoring the signs. I tried to politely inform them but they ignored me. Maybe some additional signage on the benches will help, or just block the road on both sides leading to the sanctuary.

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  • Hello: It was noted by Martin at the celebration party that the dog owners at Chavez Park came together with the rest of the lovers of the nature at the park and with that joint together we won. We need all of us and allof us matter. There is a large chunk of the population Chavez Park who have dogs. Please let’s not go on and on about kicking them out!!

  • I am looking forward to meeting the folks who are opposing the safety for the owls change in the fence construction. Wasnt the original fence made to protect the owls? So, if that old fence is not working to protect the owls make one that does. No brainer seems to me. maureen

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  • Calling it a “fence” is a total misnomer!! It’s a WIRE! that is NOT a fence! At the very least they need to reclassify it as a “Wire” not a “fence!”
    (it would be like my landlord calling my hovel a mansion!)

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  • Some of us have been saying the fence (that had been an art project) was ridiculously inadequate. But dogs will also always be a risk. Almost every Bay Area park allows dogs, including the few that once didn’t, so why not restrict dogs from Cesar Chavez, for the owls, other birds, and the humans who are constantly terrorized by the off leash dogs or leashed dogs that owners allow near enough to bite?

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