GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ (WTVR) — Officials say there is a perfectly good reason why a large number of snowy owls are being spotted along the East Coast and other parts of the U.S. this year.
It all comes down to the birds’ food supply in the Arctic tundra.
“So in the Arctic breeding ground, snowy owls like to eat lemmings and this past summer of 2013, there were so many lemmings in the Arctic that many young snowy owls were born but once winter came there wasn’t enough food for them to stay in the Arctic so we had them moving south in record numbers,” the North Branch Nature Center’s Larry Clarfeld told The Inquistor.
The snowy owls have been drawing large crowds to the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge in Galloway Township just outside Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Folks were spotted with cameras and binoculars in hand hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic creatures.
“Oh he was turning his head so you could see his eyes looking right at us,” one woman said.
“It’s actually pretty special to have snow owls in New Jersey,” Donald Freiday with the US Fish and Wildlife Service told The Inquirer in December. “We normally in a given winter will have between none and three. This year, the whole state there are as many as 30.”
Typically the owls spend the winter in northern Canada and Alaska, but this season the owls have been sighted as far south as Tennessee.
Freiday said the high number of birds is “not a bad thing” and is nothing to be alarmed about.
“It’s certainly a special big year for snowy owls,” Freiday said. We think that the reason there are so many snowy owls in New Jersey… is because they had a really good year this year up in the Arctic where they breed. And when that happens, they produce lots of offspring. There’s competition for food among them and they come south as a result.”
The snowy owls will migrate north as the weather shifts in the Arctic.