Can you have a Northern Saw-whet Owl as a pet?

Answered by Willian Lymon

As an expert on native owl species and their legal status in the United States, I can provide you with a detailed answer regarding the ownership of a Northern Saw-whet Owl as a pet.

In the United States, it is illegal for private individuals to keep native owls, including the Northern Saw-whet Owl, as pets. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918, along with other federal and state laws, protect native bird species from being taken from the wild and kept in captivity without proper permits and licenses.

The main reason for this restriction is to ensure the conservation and welfare of native owl populations. Owls, including the Northern Saw-whet Owl, play important roles in ecosystems, such as controlling rodent populations. Allowing private ownership of these birds could lead to overexploitation and harm to their populations in the wild.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Trained and licensed individuals, such as wildlife rehabilitators, may possess native owls temporarily while they are being rehabilitated. These individuals have the necessary expertise and facilities to ensure the well-being and eventual release of the owls back into the wild.

Additionally, native owls may be kept by licensed individuals as foster parents in a rehabilitation facility. This allows orphaned or injured owls to be raised and eventually released into the wild by surrogate owl parents.

Breeding programs are another exception to the ownership restriction. Licensed individuals may engage in breeding programs for native owls, which aim to increase their populations and genetic diversity. These programs are closely regulated to ensure the welfare of the owls and the conservation of their species.

Educational purposes also allow for the possession of native owls. Licensed individuals, such as educators and wildlife rehabilitators, may use owls in educational programs to raise awareness and promote conservation efforts. These owls are typically non-releasable individuals that cannot survive in the wild due to injuries or other reasons.

Lastly, certain species of native owls may be used for falconry purposes. Falconry is a highly regulated sport that involves hunting with trained birds of prey. However, the requirements for obtaining a falconry permit and using native owls for falconry are strict and vary by state.

While it is illegal for private individuals to keep native owls, including the Northern Saw-whet Owl, as pets in the United States, there are exceptions for trained and licensed individuals for rehabilitation, breeding, educational, and falconry purposes. These exceptions are in place to ensure the conservation and welfare of native owl populations and to prevent the exploitation of these magnificent creatures.