Two snowy owls have been trapped at Martin State Airport in Baltimore County and will be relocated away from the airport, aviation officials said Friday.

A female owl was captured in a trap at the airport shortly after sunset on Thursday and a male owl was captured Friday morning, according to the Maryland Aviation Administration.

The owls were captured in traps that the Maryland Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture had placed on a grassy area on the north side of the airport.

The owls were examined by USDA and state Department of Natural Resources employees and will be banded this weekend and released "well away" from the airport. The female owl will be fitted with a transmitter so it can be tracked by Project SNOWstorm, an effort that documents the recent expanded movements of snowy owls.

Snowy owls are native to the Arctic, but the large white owls have expanded their range in recent months and have been spotted much farther south than usual. Biologists say the phenomenon — called an irruption — could be caused by a recent increase in owl reproduction associated with a boom of lemmings, their main Arctic prey.

Snowy owls and other large birds can be dangerous at airports because they can cause damage to airplanes if they are struck.

On Dec. 27, officials trapped a snowy owl at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum.

Snowy owls are large, white owls with round heads and often have some dark markings on their body. They are not endangered or threatened, but they are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

pwood@baltsun.com

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