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Florida man accused of destroying burrowing owl nests

Jerlis Villalba and a burrowing owl.
Jerlis Villalba and a burrowing owl.

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – A Florida man has been charged with destroying the nests of six burrowing owls. The birds are protected by the state.

Wildlife officials say 52-year-old Jerlis Villalba and his crew were doing landscaping work when he instructed the crew to clear land near the burrows. According to a probable cause affidavit, Villalba admitted that he knew the burrowing owls and their burrows were protected and decided to get close anyway because he hadn't seen the birds in a long time.

The News-Press reports the burrows had also been listed on construction site plans and various permits.

Villalba was charged Friday with intentionally killing or wounding a threatened or endangered species, its eggs, or its nest.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said all six burrows were destroyed and rendered uninhabitable as a result of the construction.