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Pygmy owl could get protections again; comment period ends Feb. 22

Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl
Mike Wrigley/USFWS
Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list a tiny desert owl as a threatened species.

The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl could regain protections under the Endangered Species Act that were stripped away more than 15 years ago. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment on the proposal until Feb. 22.

"We take those comments very seriously and they are important in helping us in our process," said Scott Richardson, a supervisory fish and wildlife biologist with the Service.

He said information received through public comment helps make a final determination about protections for the diminutive owl, which often nests in saguaros and other columnar cactus in Arizona and Sonora.

The proposal reflects officials' belief that climate change, invasive species, habitat loss and other factors put the owl in danger. The proposal would list the species as threatened throughout its range, in Arizona, Texas, Sonora and other parts of Mexico.

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.