Due to larger than normal snow accumulation to the North, a few Great Gray Owl have found their way to Northern Utah. I’m told the last time this happened was in the ’80s.
Whenever a species moves beyond its normal range, people assume the bird must be starving. Research on Snowy Owl has shown this to not be the case. While lack of food is what motivates the bird to move further south, the root cause seems to be a very high survival rate for that species’ offspring the previous year. More birds mean they need to spread out more than usual and travel further to find food. The Snowy Owls that were studied were perfectly healthy.
This misconception and people trying to get better photos has lead to the hot topic of owl baiting. I have never baited, with two exceptions, backyard birds to my black oil sunflower feeder, and I have Bald Eagle shots taken when the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources dumped a truckload of carp in the wetlands to attract eagles for the public’s viewing pleasure. (The DNR got a lot of flack for doing this and has since stopped.) I also have a photo of a Harrier on a turkey that someone else put out one winter. I didn’t realize this until I got home and looked at the pictures. I do not bait raptors and I now believe the practice to be unethical and dangerous to the birds. A well written and researched blog article I read really opened my eyes to this issue and I now understand why so many people got upset when the DNR did the fish dump. Baiting in the U.S. can get you a fine, but it’s not illegal in Canada and is a much bigger problem there.
Great Gray Owl are amazing birds and I’ve really enjoyed watching and photographing this one. I would like to thank the property owners for giving me permission to go on their land which enabled me to get a few of these shots.