Creature Feature: Western Screech-Owl

Hoot-hoot! Hoothoothoothoot! Sounds like a Western Screech Owl! These shy owls are small, with mottled grey-brown plumage. They have obvious ear tufts and large yellow eyes.  Because of their small size (you could hold one in your hands!) they feed mainly on smaller prey items like snakes, frogs, rodents, and various large insects. Fun fact: they don't actually screech. Their name comes from their cousin, the Eastern Screech-Owl, who's call can be a very high pitched cry.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 250 Western Screech Owls left in Canada, making them a nationally Endangered species. Their decline is due almost entirely to loss of habitat. They live in creek-side woodlands, nesting only in natural cavities in large black cottonwood trees. There are very few healthy stands of cottonwood left in the South Okanagan because much of the human development in the area has centered around the valley bottoms where cottonwoods naturally occur.

What can you do to help the Western Screech-Owl?
Care for cottonwoods
Protect cottonwood trees if you have them on your property, or if you live near a forested stream or river, consider planting some cottonwoods of your own.
Maintain riparian (riverside) areas
Riparian areas are one of the ecosystems that are most heavily impacted by human activity. It is often cleared for urban development and agriculture, roaming livestock and recreational activities erode riverbanks and spread invasive species. By supporting riparian conservation and restoration efforts, you can help protect the habitat that the owls need most.
Install nest a box or two  
Nest boxes mimic the natural cavities that occur in large mature cottonwoods. By installing nest boxes, you can give the Screech-Owls somewhere to raise their young even if there are not enough cottonwoods in the area. To obtain a nest box or to acquire plans to make your own box, please contact us using the information found in the link above. Nest boxes should be installed a certain way: the link above also describes how to care for screech-owl boxes.

Listen If you live near a river or other waterway, you can listen in the evenings during the late winter and early spring to discover whether there are Western Screech-Owls in your neighborhood. Click the above link to find out what they sound like and what they look like. Remember, Screech-Owls are small - about the size of a Grande coffee cup from your favorite coffee place. The larger, similar-looking Great Horned Owl is more the size of a laptop computer and has a very deep hoot.

Do you think there may be Screech-owls on your property? Let us know!
Have you found an injured Western Screech Owl (or any other injured owl or bird of prey?) Contact the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre at 250-498-4251

Volunteer Opportunity: Hike & Bike Path Community Clean Up

Tuesday, November 29
1pm - 4pm
Help us clean up the Oliver Hike and Bike Path along the Okanagan River
This area is home to federally listed Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Screech Owl, Painted Turtles, Tiger Salamanders and a variety of songbirds.
Meet us at the trailhead parking at Tucelnuit Dr and Hwy 97
Gloves, tools, snacks and refreshments provided!

Okanagan Landing Pollinator Garden Fundraiser

Last year, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship worked with Okanagan Landing Elementary to plant up a large pollinator garden in their schoolyard.  Students are now fundraising for more plants and garden supplies by selling cards they have created.  Cards and envelopes are available for a minimum donation of $2 for 4 cards (pick up only).  To make a donation, contact Mrs. Sheila Monroe by calling 250-542-1181.

Get involved!

Want to support local landowners and communities in stewardship and enhancement of important wildlife habitats?  
Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is seeking an indpendent contractor to join our team in the North Okanagan to assist in stewardship delivery throughout the RDNO.  Please see our posting here and submit your expression of interest as described in the instructions.

Spotlight on Stewards: Clubhouse Farm

The Clubhouse Farm program was created to allow our children to play, relax, and exercise in a natural environment and the property includes four acres of forest with three distinct ecosystems. 

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship is excited to welcome Clubhouse Farm as Wildlife Habitat Stewards! Their nature classroom and playspace is taking steps to restore and conserve a beautiful stand of cottonwoods as habitat for wildlife and a place for their children to explore. The children at Clubhouse Farm Child Care Centre have an active role in the stewardship of this 4 acre natural area and are a reminder that no matter how big or small, we can all make a difference.

Why Stewardship Matters- the importance of becoming a ‘Wildlife Habitat Steward’

You may ask yourself, what does Stewardship have to do with me?  The answer is - a lot.   Being a steward is defined as the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.  In the case of the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society (OSSS), the thing worth caring for and preserving is the invaluable habitat that can be found all throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. 

The Okanagan has some of the rarest and most valuable wildlife habitats found in Canada and 1/3rd of those are found on private land owned by landowners like you.  There are many threats to these habitats including the innumerable invasive species found in the Okanagan, development, channelization of rivers and much more. 

Stewardship is a relatively new concept in the environmental world, and has proven to have valuable results.  One of our main goals as a Stewardship Society is to educate the public about simple ways they can conserve and even enhance the natural habitats around them.  As a summer Stewardship Intern with the OSSS I have had the opportunity to talk to many Okanagan locals at a variety of farmers markets throughout the region.  It’s there that we get a chance to tell them about environmental concerns in the area as well as discuss the opportunity they have to become a Wildlife Habitat Steward with us.  A Wildlife Habitat Steward with the OSSS is a landowner that has wildlife habitat on their property that they are interested in preserving.  This can include anything from a wetland to a grassland where wildlife species have been spotted. The process of signing on as a steward is simple and non-binding, and as a society we can assist you in enhancing and conserving the value of that habitat by pulling invasive species, planting native species, creating wetlands or ponds, or providing you with other conservation methods appropriate to your unique property!

Our educational display at Okanagan Farmers Markets

Throughout this summer I have had the opportunity to meet a variety of the Wildlife Habitat Stewards that have signed on with OSSS.  I have seen their passion for the conservation that is taking place on their property, and am grateful that I can part of an organization that cares so deeply about the important ecosystems and animals we have in this unique part of the province!

If you’re interested in becoming a Wildlife Habitat Steward with us, or want more information don’t hesitate to contact us at

Why should you care about invasive weeds?

After many hours of pulling invasive weeds it can be hard to stay motivated and see the benefits of your work. Some sites seem to be a losing battle, and it is easy to get discouraged.  

Sometimes you just need a reminder of why controlling invasive plants is important. A visit to a natural area with no invasive weeds can do the trick. It truly is a beautiful sight! There is a huge amount of diversity in plants present. 

Invasive species are the biggest threat to biodiversity, next to habitat loss. They can outcompete our native plants for light, space, water and nutrients. The dominance of a non-native species usually results in a decrease in diversity of native species. This has negative consequences for the habitat of many animal species, especially for insects who require specific plants for food or reproduction; for example, the threatened Behr’s Hairstreak butterfly relies on antelope brush as its larval host plant. 

Behr's Hairstreak butterfly 
Changes in the vegetation present can alter the composition of the organic litter and soil, which can negatively affect detritivores (critters that eat dead organic material). These guys are important components of the food chain and for releasing essential nutrients into the ecosystem.  We have done work at a site where the complete infestation of sulphur cinquefoil has changed the soil so drastically that it no longer looks like a precious grassland! Some invasive plants, such as spotted knapweed, can secrete a toxin into the soil which can inhibit the growth of other plants. 

Some invasive plants can pose a serious threat to wild herbivores and livestock, such as St. John’s-wort, hound’s-tongue, and hoary alyssum. Inedible or toxic invasive plants can outcompete nutritious forage. Plants with burrs or sharp spines may can irritate and injure animals. 

Economically, invasive plants pose a serious threat as well. Once a plant has become widely distributed, it requires a lot of resources to control the spread. There are many economic losses as a consequence of decreased ecosystem function (forestry, agriculture, recreation, etc.) 

If your motivation has returned to tackle those weeds, here are some tips to make sure that your efforts are worthwhile. 
  1. Understand the life cycle of the plant you are dealing with. This will make it easier to decide on a game plan. For example, knowing if a plant is annual, biennial, or perennial can help you focus your efforts and management practices. For example, burdock is a biennial, meaning that the plant will not flower until its second year.
    First year burdock
  2. Know how to manage each species. Each species has different peculiarities that are worth knowing, such as dalmatian toadflax’s ability to multiply from bits of root left in the soil after it has been pulled out. It is more effective to clip the plant below the seed heads to cut down on the amount of seeds in the soil. 
  3. Persistence is key. If you want to eliminate an invasive plant from your property, you will have to get out there every year until the seed bank dries up. 
  4. Prevent invasive plant infestations. Plant in disturbed areas with native or non-invasive exotic plants before invasive plants can establish. Plant native species in natural areas to prevent the spread of invasive plants. 
    Lewis's Mock Orange - a beautiful native flowering shrub

Use this guide to identify invasive plants on your property. For ideas on native and ornamental plants you could plant instead, click here. If you need help or more information, don't hesitate to contact the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship. 

Be a Citizen Scientist!

Help us detect (or not) American Bullfrogs in your community!

American Bullfrogs are invasive, voracious predators of our small, native amphibians and we need your help detecting them early!

-BC Exotic Listed Species-
-Length: <8" 
-Egg mass: 1000's of eggs 
-Call: loud, low 'drone' 
      -American Bullfrog call
-Very large ear membrane 
-Bright green upper lip
-Pale belly
-Males have a yellow chin 


1. Go to your favourite wetland between 9PM and 12AM (this is the best time to listen for calling frogs and toads).

2.Using the DATA SHEET , record pond name, inventory method, observer, location (UTM is best description of location), air temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation, cloud coverage and moon.

3. Sit quietly for a minute - Become one with your surroundings.

4. Listen (for at least 5 minutes, 15 minutes is better!).

5. Record end time

6.Let us know what you heard/didn't hear by entering your data HERE 

For more detailed descriptions of our local amphibians, visit 
Get To Know Your Amphibian Neighbours or Frogwatch BC.

Meet our 2016 Summer Students!!

Hi, I'm Samantha Davis and I'm one of the new interns at the Okanagan-Similkameen Stewardship Society for the summer 2016 season. 

I grew up at Apex Mountain Resort, where I spent my time skiing, hiking and horseback riding. Observing how quickly my mountainous, natural playground could be destroyed by development, logging and climate change, I developed a strong interest in helping the environment. I am currently completing my 5th year of Earth and Environmental Science at UBCO in Kelowna.

I am looking forward to being in my home town this summer with this great opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the valley, and to be a part of important conservation work with the OSS!
Sam on the Athabasca Glacier

Hi!  I’m Jill Bisaro.  I am one of the new interns at the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society this summer. 

I grew up in the small town of Fruitvale in the west Kootenays, where I spent a lot of time in the outdoors hiking and camping. My love for the outdoors drove me to complete a Recreation, Fish and Wildlife diploma at Selkirk College in Castlegar, where much of my time was spent getting to know the backcountry of the Kootenays.  That program fostered in me a love for work in the field, and I hope to bring that into my future job one day. 

Currently, I am finishing up my degree at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, where I am majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries.  Once I graduate I am interested in becoming a Wildlife Field Research Biologist. Working for the OSSS is a great opportunity for working towards my future goals.  I am excited to work for such a great organization this summer, and to get to know the Okanagan!

Jill in her native habitat

Then and now

Habitat enhancement and restoration projects are important in improving natural areas for wildlife throughout our region.  In the Okanagan valley, where 87% of wetlands and riparian areas have been lost to channelization and development, restoring these areas is important.  Buffers around wetlands and along rivers and streams work like sponges, cleaning and filtering water and providing other "services" like flood control, cooling water for fish and so on.

Enhancing and restoring natural areas often takes years, but sometimes the results are visible much quicker than that.

The Kambo pond in Osoyoos was created in a depression in an Osoyoos orchard.  This depression was a frost pocket that was causing loss in cherries.  Water in the pond helps to regulate temperature and reduces late frosts while also providing important habitat for amphibians and waterfowl.

This depression in Vernon was excavated and a clay liner used to assist in water retention.  Now the pond holds water longer and is breeding habitat for amphibians and waterfowl.

The Okanagan Crush Pad site is looking AMAZING after just two short months.  This buffer along Eneas Creek in Summerland's Garnet Valley will provide valuable wildlife habitat adjacent to a site where we are planning to excavate ponds and side channel habitat.

Thank you to our partners and funders

Thank you to our partners and funders