Posted by: DarkEyedJunc0 | December 10, 2013

Snowy Owls at it again :)

Harry Potter lovers know them well, as do frequent readers of this.great.planet – the Snowy Owl. It is a favorite of birders and non-birders alike.

In our November 25th post, “Owlmania,” ( we reported that a Snowy Owl “invasion” was underway.

At that time, the census of known birds was in double digits. Today, there are as many in a single state alone. In fact, at one point ,there were 10 known at a single spot in Massachusetts.

With anomalies like this, come unique problems.

This week, the New York media reported that the New York / New Jersey Port Authority responded to an influx of Snowy Owls (who are known to like the open, grassy fields of airports) by implemneding a “shoot to kill” policy. Two or three (reports vary) birds were said to have been shot over the last weekend at Kennedy Airport. The policy came in response to a reported five plane strikes at each of New York’s area airports.

Bird strikes came to the forefront of the news when a plane was landed in the Hudson River, by a quick thinking pilot after Canada Geese were caught in an engine.

It always is a delicate balance of protecting human safety vs. killing wildlife, but at Boston’s Logan Airport, they have always trapped, tagged, studied and released them. The program has been in place since the 1980s, in a partnership with the Airport and Massachusetts Audubon Society, and has captured over 500 birds. (By the way, Boston Logan is a Snowy Owl favorite because the terrain reminds them of Arctic Tundra, as well as its location in the Boston Harbor Islands.)

Once the story broke, birders and non-birders alike became outraged and called the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as Governors Cuomo (NY) and Christie (NJ) and an online petition ( was circulated. By that evening, over 3,000 people had signed the online petition which was delivered to Governor Cuomo who called the shootings “barbaric and unnecessary.”

By the evening, the Port Authority released the following statement:

December 9, 2013

CONTACT: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey


“The Port Authority is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to move immediately toward implementing a program to trap and relocate snowy owls that pose a threat to aircraft at JFK and LaGuardia airports. The Port Authority’s goal is to strike a balance in humanely controlling bird populations at and around the agency’s airports to safeguard passengers on thousands of aircrafts each day. Over the past two weeks, five planes at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports were struck by snowy owls that have been migrating to our region in far higher than typical numbers this year.”

As an aside, as of this morning (the next day the petition was circulated,) over 5,500 people have signed (that number has almost doubled overnight.)

This is just proof positive that working together CAN make a difference.



1. While the press release references the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports, this.great.planet has reached out to the Port Authority to comment on the policy at Newark (NJ) Airport. We are still awaiting a callback at the time this article went to press.


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