snowy owl

Officials say a snowy owl was captured at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport on Dec. 29, then released the next day elsewhere. (Photo courtesy of USDA Wildlife Services / January 8, 2014)

A snowy owl that had camped out at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport was captured and relocated in late December, according to airport officials.

The snowy owl was spotted on the airfield near one of the runways at the Linthicum airport Dec. 27. That night, a wildlife technician from the U.S. Department of Agriculture set a trap for the bird.

The trap worked, and the owl was banded and released away from the airport the next day.

Snowy owls can be dangerous at airports because they can cause damage to airplanes if they are struck. The fact that the owls are large and fly low are of particular concern, airport officials said.

In December, officials said that five planes at New York City-area airports had been struck by snowy owls.

Snowy owls are native to the Arctic, where they feed on small rodents called lemmings. But the large, white owls have expanded their range this winter and have been spotted well to the south of the Arctic, including in Maryland.

Biologists have said the expanded range of the snowy owls – called an irruption – could be caused by a recent increase in owl reproduction associated with a boom of lemmings. With more young owls, there might not be enough lemmings to go around, so the owls must search farther afield to find food.

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

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