This winter is an irruptive year for Snowy Owls. They are being seen all over southern Ontario and northeastern US border states. Every 3 or 4 years there is a die-off of their main prey,Lemmings. As a result more Snowy Owls than normal move south. This results in alot more human contact than usual,because so many people,most of us included wish to see and photograph them. I know the regular followers of this site follow good birding etiquette,but we have all heard the stories.Wherever you go this winter,to see a Snowy Owl,I hope you will enjoy sightings of Snowy Owls(or other species)but respect them,their space and the land owners.
Ive pinched alot of the following from our buddy Rob,of Rob and Angie,as I believe Rob said things very well. To see his posting on the same topic see his blog at http://robandtheanimals.blogspot.com/
Many of these Snowy Owls will arrive near starvation as many fly non-stop to where you find them,so allowing them the room and time to hunt is very important. Disturbing a bird that is hunting may do them out of a meal with terrible unintended results. Already several Snowy Owls have arrived at local bird and wildlife rehabilitation centres suffering from starvation. Sadly,some havent made it.
A 2nd issue is car strikes,while going after prey,so please be careful when out looking for owls. If you or someone you know comes into contact with an injured owl or otherwise distressed raptor,it is of utmost importance to get in touch with and transfer the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabiliator as soon as possible. This is in the very best interests of any wildlife you find and can mean the difference between life and death.
Please do not attempt rehabilitation of wildlife on your own. Communication with experienced, licensed rehabilitators is key to providing the best care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. Licensed rehabilitators have been specially trained for triage, convalescence and paliative care of wild animals.
Most provinces of Canada allow their citizens to hold onto wildlife for a maximum of 24 hours at which time the wildlife must be released or transferred to an authorized wildlife rehabilitator. It is illegal to maintain wildlife beyond this 24 hour limit without special permitting from the Ministry of Natural Resources. These regulations have been set in place to protect our native wildlife from typically well-meaning, but inexperienced people. Animals, especially those injured, sick or orphaned, require special care and medical needs that most people are unable, unwilling or too niave to provide properly.
If the bird you have found is showing signs of sickness or injury such as difficulty breathing, bleeding, stumbling, fractures or other trauma, the animal will require immediate medical attention. If you have trouble finding a local rehabilitator, consider contacting your local veterinarian. Many veterinarians can do simple, cheap procedures such as wing wrapping, pain relief and fluid therapy until a rehabilitator can be contacted.
BIGFRANK's note Try these places if the bird is in trouble:
Toronto Wildlife Centre
The Owl Foundation
The Canadian Peregrine Foundation 416-481-1233
(or me directly by email or phone(those with it) who will contact CPF staff) I hesitate to provide numbers,as these may periodically change,a quick search of the internet should provide U with what you need. Someone at these numbers should be able to help or direct you to help. For birders who are out frequently keeping the numbers handy may be worthwhile.
Lastly,the reason both Rob and I posted about the Snowy Owls...
Last Monday he and I got together and went in search of a Snowy Owl reported near where I live now in Schomberg,Ontario. It is only about 10km from me. We almost didnt bother going as the last report the owl was so far into a field even with a scope it was difficult to see. Being so close though we couldnt resist. We arrived and scoured the field with our binoculars,seeing nothing in the fields,but we both observed an interesting shape atop some white pipes a great distance away. We both agreed further investigation was merritted. From our vantage point we could see there was access down a secondary road which seemed should get us reasonably close to the Snowy Owls location. Indeed it did. We stopped short of where the owl was and got our cameras out. We each enjoyed the sighting and snapped a few photos. These are heavily cropped photos,so getting ridiculously close wasnt necessary. The bird eventually flew into a field,presumably after prey. It was a beautiful adult male Snowy Owl. Adult males are much whiter than more heavily marked females or juvenile birds.Enjoy,we sure did.
Beautiful Adult Male Snowy Owl