Snowy Owls return to Wisconsin

Smiley snowy owl.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- In recent years they've become an increasingly popular winter attraction across Wisconsin. Once again, snowy owls are returning to our area for the cold weather months.

Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary Animal Curator Lori Bankson can sense the growing fascination over snowy owls in recent years.

"Wisconsin has been very lucky the last few years with the irruptions of so many owls coming down and some owls staying in the area, so with the power of the internet, with the information getting out there, with the DNR and so much great research going on, we can track these owls," says Bankson.

And thanks to the website ebird.com, the public can, too.

Since early November, this map details an estimated 43 snowy owls reported from 26 Wisconsin counties, with the lower Bay of Green Bay being a hot spot.

Photos can also be submitted to go along with the sighting information.

"We can't be everywhere at the same time so having people out there, finding the spots and sharing that also with other members of the public helps us really not only see how many birds are coming down, but also the health of our environment," says Bankson.

According to Bankson, a number of factors determine how many snowy owls call Wisconsin home each winter.

"A few years ago we had a lot of wildfires in the Arctic and Canada and that destroyed a lot of habitat, so a lot of youngsters that were nesting up there that came out of the nest flew down here for the winter because there was no place else for them to go. Food availability also impacts how many owls we see."

If you see one, Banskon says enjoy their beauty, but give them space, and if one appears to be injured call the wildlife sanctuary.