Leaves are off the trees, snow is on the ground in some parts of the state, and one more sign of winter has arrived as well: snowy owls.
The first photographed owl of the season was in Dane County on Nov. 6, according to Wisconsin eBird. The Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center found the bird, which was emaciated and dehydrated, a few miles from the center. Unfortunately, despite the bird being bright and alert while in the center's care, it passed away unexpectedly, according to wildlife rehabilitator Sarah Karls.
As of Nov. 24, three more snowy owls had been recorded on eBird in Bayfield, Chippewa, and Lincoln counties, and a few more had been “casually reported,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Snowy owls spend their summers nesting on the tundra north of the Arctic circle. Come winter, some migrate south into southern Canada and the northern United States, including Wisconsin. Some years, hundreds will migrate into the state in an event known as an irruption. One of the largest irruptions in recent history was the winter of 2017-2018, when 280 snowy owls were documented in the state.