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Calgary energy company invests $150K to conserve burrowing owl habitat

A mature burrowing owl and three young chicks sit at the entrance to their nest in Brian Piccalo Park in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Wednesday, May 2, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter) A mature burrowing owl and three young chicks sit at the entrance to their nest in Brian Piccalo Park in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Wednesday, May 2, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

An Alberta species-at-risk is being given a helping hand from a Calgary energy company.

Tamarack Valley Energy has announced a partnership with the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo to help conserve the habitats of burrowing owls, which overlap in many areas where the company works in the province.

The agreement will include a $150,000 investment to the Wilder Institute's programs devoted to conserving populations of the subterranean bird.

The company calls the step "a major step forward."

"We believe ensuring the long-term viability of Alberta's wildlife is of vital importance," said Brian Schmidt, Tamarack's president and CEO, in a statement.

"We're proud to partner with the Wilder Institute to further this important work and look forward to seeing the meaningful impact of the Wilder Institute programs."

The Wilder Institute says the funding will be used to expand their work to reintroduce the species to Alberta's landscape.

"Species such as the burrowing owl are in urgent need of conservation action and this investment will enable us to protect Alberta's precious biodiversity," said Brandi Cuchman, the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo's associate director of conservation and science, in a release.

Last May, the zoo returned a group of 20 burrowing owls to the wild. They were place in a secure area where they could properly establish themselves until they could fend for themselves.

Burrowing owls are small members of the owl family that have long legs and nest exclusively underground.

Officials say the birds take over pre-existing burrows dug by other wildlife such as badgers, ground squirrels, swift foxes, coyotes and prairie dogs.

It's estimated there are between 270 to 300 burrowing owls of breeding age in Canada.

Read more about the Wilder Institute's efforts to conserve burrowing owls here.

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