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Shooting of Snowy Owls at NYC Airports Draws Outrage December 13, 2013
Arctic Snowy Owl
The owls are known to head south in large numbers every few years in what are known as irruptions.
One of the largest influxes of Arctic snowy owls in history is in progress across the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region.

Experts from Cornell University say a shortage of their favorite food up north, lemmings, or a bumper crop of young, is responsible for the "irruption."

An outcry over the killing of the impressive raptors in the name of aircraft safety at New York area airports prompted the Port Authority to switch to nonlethal methods to remove the snowy owls from JFK and LaGuardia airports.

The agency said five planes at the three main New York City airports had been struck by owls in recent weeks.

“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,” the agency said.

The birds appear to be attracted to airports because their open expanses in the midst of urban sprawl look similar to the owls’ normal Arctic tundra homes.

Bird strikes around area airports became a more pressing issue after U.S. Airways flight 1549 was forced to ditch into the Hudson River in 2009 because Canada geese were sucked into both of the jetliner’s engines.

Last January, unprecedented numbers of the snowy owls wintered as far south as Seattle and Oklahoma. One was even sighted in Hawaii for the first time ever before being shot.

Photo: File