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January 29, 2018 - 9:01pm

Death of snowy owl reported at Genesee County Airport

posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Airport, snowy owls, outdoors, animals, news, notify.


Area wildlife photographers were shocked and saddened Friday to find a dead snowy owl Friday afternoon atop a utility pole near the Genesee County Airport.

The DEC confirmed today that it was notified of a dead snowy owl that had been banded at that location.

National Grid, after being contacted by the DEC on Friday, assisted in recovering the animal from atop the utility pole (see video below).

Local photographer Jim Burns (who freelances for The Batavian) is a wildlife photographer and a frequent visitor to the airport, which attracts both numerous snowy owls and photographers. He said such deaths as this animal's are not uncommon. The owls fall victim to electrocution (the possible cause in this case), being hit by cars and poisoning. 

Poisoning is perhaps the most preventable cause of death of snowy owls. The owls feast on rodents and if the rodents were poisoned before becoming an owl's meal, the owl is poisoned as well.

"That's the main message to get out there," Burns said. "People should put out traps instead of poison."

Though still rare, the birds have been showing up in WNY in recent years, probably, because their northern hunting grounds are becoming crowded. It's generally the younger birds who migrate south. Burns estimated the deceased owl was no more than 2 years old.

The birds are banded by Operation SNOWstorm, which tracks snowy owls to assist in their preservation.  

The Department of Environmental Conservation asks that if you find a dead banded bird, report it on the website www.reportband.gov.

Photo by Margy Meath.Video by Oded Kalir.

Jennifer Ross
Jennifer Ross's picture
Last seen: 3 years 11 months ago
Joined: Aug 4 2010 - 7:22pm

How sad. Thank you for recovering the owl.

Julie Morales
Julie Morales's picture
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Nov 27 2009 - 1:29pm

I’m wondering how a person can tell that an owl died of rat poisoning? Not just poisoning, but specifically rat poisoning? Did someone do an autopsy? Birds of prey are hunters, they eat what they kill, not already dead critters like poisoned rats. Or do the owls just happen to come upon the rats while in the throes of death?

I think being hit by a car is certainly a preventable cause of death. Are there sickos who deliberately hit kamikaze snowy owls with their cars? That’s all just…really weird to me.

A sad end for a beautiful bird.

Rich Richmond
Rich Richmond's picture
Last seen: 3 weeks 3 days ago
Joined: Mar 29 2011 - 4:50pm

Yes, it is sad, and they sometimes will eat dead animals.


James Burns
James Burns's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 2 days ago
Joined: Mar 9 2014 - 1:35pm

They are going to autopsy the bird. If a raptor finds a dead animal they will eat it. People do not hit the birds on purpose with their cars. The birds will fly low in front of a car and get hit.

This news just came out of Cornell today concerning poising of raptors http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2018/01/collateral-damage-man-made-toxin...

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