Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

December 9, 2011

Snowy Owl Invasion

In recent weeks, Snowy Owls are being reported seemingly everywhere.  I recon it's an irruption of the Owls and not certain at the moment why they are on the move and settling in around us here in the GTA and other areas.

A female Snowy Owl Angie and I viewed across from a pier in Whitby this month.

While it's amazing to see these beautiful birds of prey; as always, we must use care and respect with them.  They are living beings, and while not human, they have emotions too.  And simply put, everybody wants to get a photograph of a Snowy Owl...  so, yes, take a photo and take home a visual memory of this majestic bird you have encountered.  But please limit your time viewing the bird and also keep your distance.

I've only seen two Snowy Owls in the wild myself.  Both were in very well protected spots along the lake shore, being surrounded by water.  No sane person would dare swim across the near freezing lake at this time of year.  And if covered in ice, same thing about attempting to cross it.  And the Owls have been at such a distance that nobody is invading their space/comfort zone.

But I have heard stories of other sightings where the Owls are in reach.  And people seem to have no concern for the Owls and attempt to approach them for better viewing and better photographs.  Not everybody has a mega thousand dollar camera and lens set-up so the photos will never be clear unless you are pretty much face to face with the subject.

People are walking on private property, not caring who owns the farm land the Owl has stopped in on.  And this is infuriating to many property owners.  Would you want a stranger walking into your backyard because he felt it was his right to see a bird on your property?  Imagine you are having your Sunday morning coffee, you look out your kitchen window and find 3 strangers with cameras walking about your backyard.  Wouldn't that just piss you right off?

So, wherever you go this winter, and if you see a Snowy Owl since I assume more sightings will be coming about...  please enjoy the Owls but respect them, their space and the land owners (if the Owl is on private property).

Here is the very first wild Snowy Owl we have ever seen, back in February of 2010.  These are grainy heavily cropped shots but still a lifetime memory for me.

And lastly, with this irruption of Snowy Owls, I must add that some may come into trouble for one reason or another.  It's not uncommon for an Owl to be out on the road with a fresh mouse kill as an example.  And these birds aren't too familiar with life here in the big city, not exactly knowing the dangers of sitting down to a meal on a roadway.  Some may get hit by cars and may need our help.  Once again, as an example, and there are many others which I won't get into.

So, if you or someone you know comes into contact with an injured Owl; please view these links on what to do, how to help, who to call, etc.  All courtesy of The Owl Foundation.  Here is a webpage to help you locate a wildlife rehab centre near you.  The link to general information isn't working for me so here is a list for you to review that deal with any encounter, with any Owl or other bird species at any time of the year.

Happy birding!

If you or someone you know has found an injured 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 you have found a raptor in distress, please visit the Wildlife International page (my link above) for listings of rehabilitators in your area. You may also contact your local Humane Society or Ministry of Natural Resource office for information.

You can be doing more harm than good. Raptor throat anatomy is very different from yours.
You can drown a raptor by putting fluids and food into the wrong area.
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.

Temporary Housing for Transport to a Rehabilitator:
You Will Need

Cardboard box with lid
Pen or Boxcutter
Towel or other soft cloth
Work gloves

Find a cardboard box approximately half again as long as the bird and twice as wide. The bird should be able to sit upright in the box without bumping its head against the top. The box should not be so large as to allow the bird to walk around. The idea is to keep the bird contained in one spot, but as comfortable as possible. If the box is too big the bird can hurt itself as it fights to escape. Broken wings can be rotated improperly and blood circulation can be cut off.

Prepare the box by punching holes from the inside out along all walls approximately 2/3 of the way up. This will allow ventilation for the bird to breathe while it remains in the box. You don't have to go overboard. Five - ten holes per side, depending on the size of the box, is enough. If you have access to a boxcutter, you can cut one inch holes 2/3 of the way up from the inside out (two - three per side).
Place a towel or blanket in the bottom of the box. This provides cushioning, warmth and gripping substrate for the animal.

In most cases an orphaned, sick or injured raptor will be fairly easy to contain by simply picking it up. It is helpful to throw a towel or blanket over the bird as you approach. Scoop the animal and towel up together. The bird should grab the towel, not you. It is suggested that you have a pair of work gloves with you as well since raptors will often use their last bit of strength to protect themselves. Do not leave the towel over the bird once it is contained in the box.

If the bird is capable of walking just a touch too fast to capture single-handedly, ask a friend to help corral the animal into a corner or directly into the box (put the box on its side on the ground).

If the bird cannot sit up in the box, use a second towel to encircle its body and prop its head onto the higher surface like a pillow. This will also keep the bird from falling over during transport.

Keep the box covered (either with a lid or blanket) as raptors have a tendancy to escape.

Maintain the box/bird in a dark area at room temperature (~22ºC/70ºF). Keep the bird from stressful stimulae such as noise, children, pets and television. A stressed hawk will freeze and stare with mouth gaping and wings out, if capable. Owls can display stress in many ways including playing dead, snapping their beaks, hissing and fluffing up. Raptors can pant if stressed. Many scared raptors will show defense tactics such as lunging with their beaks or grabbing with their feet. Be careful.

During transport, do not play music and keep talking to a minimum. Keep an ambient temperature in the vehicle and try to place the box in an area that will not receive direct sunlight.

The rehabilitator you contact will give you further instructions geared toward the species and injury you are dealing with.


Baby owls are very cute balls of fluff and can be very accomodating and fun to have around.  Don't get sucked in!

These little guys need their parents, not humans. They should never be coddled, petted or passed around. This is stressful and inappropriate. They are wild animals who need to stay wild for successful release back to nature.

Owls are not pets.

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