THE National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is advising Jamaicans that it is illegal to molest or hunt owls.
Members of the public are being asked not to disturb or injure these birds which are protected under the Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA).
"There is a noticeable increase in the number of injured owls which are reported to NEPA and the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA)," NEPA said in a news release.
NEPA routinely responds to wildlife incident reports via the JSPCA and directly to the agency.
Based on investigations, NEPA said the birds have been hurt mainly due to stoning.
"Under the WLPA, it is illegal to hunt, injure or molest any protected animal or protected bird. Anyone caught in breach can be fined up to $100,000 and/or imprisoned for up to one year," NEPA said. "Possession of the whole or part of any protected animal or protected bird; including being in possession of the nest or egg of a protected bird is also an offence under the Act."
There are two types of owls found in Jamaica -- the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) and the Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus) which is an endemic species. Both birds are being threatened. However, the Barn Owl, which is generally larger in size, is the more commonly injured, NEPA said.
"Owls play a very important ecological function by keeping the rodent populations in balance. They eat rats and mice which are their main food source in urban areas," NEPA said.
Persons are asked to call NEPA's toll-free line at 1-888-991-5005, or the JSPCA at 929-0320 to report harm or injury of owls.