Snowy owls and Short-eared owls journey south from the Arctic and northern Canada every winter. They arrive in the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) seeking abundant populations of the mice and voles they depend on for their survival.
Recent incidents involving photographers chasing Snowy owls in the area to get closer photos - and trespassing on private property to do it - have enraged both landowners and owl lovers alike.
Flushing owls and other raptors causes them to waste energy they need for hunting and staying warm. If they lack energy to hunt they starve to death.
A Snowy owl was found dead from starvation in the IBA last year.
Flushing these birds can also lead to their injury or death from other sources.
“We have a Snowy owl that was hit by a bus when it flew into the road to avoid photographers,” reports Wendy Hall, co-director of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehab Center. "We get birds every year that are starving to death because they don’t have energy left to hunt or forage for food," she added.
A Snowy owl wintering in the IBA was found dead on Wednesday. He was found alongside the road, probably hit by a car.
The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a warning last week: "Trespassing and harassing wildlife is illegal, is harmful to the birds and DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers will be patrolling the area and enforcing these laws."