UPDATE: DCHS Encourages People to Respect Owl's Space

UPDATE: Many people are flocking to Middleton to view a Great Grey Owl. The Dane County Humane Society encourages viewers to keep distance when viewing owl and respect the bird’s space

Courtesy: Sunil Gopalan/WDNR Photo

UPDATED Friday, March 29, 2013 --- 1:56 p.m.

Press Release from the Dane Co. Humane Society:

Safety of Middleton’s Great Grey Owl in Jeopardy

Dane County Humane Society encourages viewers to keep distance when viewing owl and respect the bird’s space

Madison, WI – Dane County Humane Society’s Four Lakes Wildlife Center (FLWC), an established and respected wildlife rehabilitation program, has been monitoring the Middleton Great Gray Owl and has also been in contact with the Dane County Conservation Warden, and WI DNR Wildlife Rehabilitation/Captive Wildlife Liaison. This normally rarely seen owl has been drawing a lot of attention from birders, both in the local area, but also drawing in many curious visitors from within and outside of the state.

DCHS’ wildlife rehab experts understand this unique viewing experience, but also strongly stress the importance of respecting the owl’s space and keeping an appropriate distance when viewing this magnificent bird.

“Approaching the owl too closely will cause him increased stress, which can negatively affect his health,” says Brooke Lewis, DCHS Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor. “In order to make the return flight north, when he decides to go, he will need to be strong and in good condition,” says Lewis. Constant crowds around the bird may inhibit him from hunting as often as he needs to. Unlike many of the other owl species in WI, Great Grey Owls normally spend more time hunting during the day.

DCHS strongly suggests the following tips:

· View the owl from a distance of a minimum of 25 yards (approx. basketball court length), and preferably farther

· Binoculars and spotting scopes should be for a closer view

· Telephoto and zoom camera lenses should be used to photograph the owl

· Avoid making loud noises - keep voices low

· If your presence is causing the owl to change his behavior in any way, you are too close

· It is unacceptable to climb trees near the owl, try to touch him, feed him anything (baiting), make any efforts to make him fly (by throwing things at him, etc)

It is not uncommon for the bird to seem unbothered by human presence and may not react outwardly as you get closer, but it is no doubt causing stress and may have a detrimental effect on his health.

The Great Grey Owl is most commonly found in the Canadian forests. When birds migrate to areas outside of their normal range, such as this owl, the migration is called an irruption, and is normally due to scarcity of food in their home range. This is the same thing the Dane County area saw with the snowy owls two years ago.

For additional information on DCHS’s Four Lakes Wildlife Center, please visit www.giveshelter.org.


Posted Wednesday, March 27, 2013 --- 11:20 a.m.

From the WDNR:

MADISON, Wis. – This year’s long winter is having an impact on owls in Wisconsin, including three species of rare owls that have come down from the boreal forest north of the U.S. border.

Every few years, there is a crash in the populations of small rodents that forces owls to move south in search of food. That is exactly what has happened this year and because of it, Wisconsin is becoming a temporary home to three species not normally seen here: the northern hawk owl, the great gray owl and the boreal owl.

To see these three species in the state is rare, yet they’ve been spotted in Door, Ashland, Douglas and as far south as Racine and Kenosha Counties. A great grey owl is currently being seen at the Capital Brewery in downtown Middleton.

“Unfortunately, long winters and early springs, coupled with unfamiliar landscapes, increased roads and other risk factors, have taken a toll on some of these rare visitors,” explained Ryan Brady, natural resources research scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Great grey owls and northern hawk owls are prone to vehicle collisions as they hunt over roadside ditches. Boreal owls may begin hunting by daylight to find food, and may turn to backyard bird feeding stations in hopes of finding mice attracted to spilled seed.”

The DNR is interested in learning more about where these birds are seen, regardless of whether they are alive. Should you see a great grey, northern hawk, or boreal owl, you are encouraged to fill out a rare bird sighting form (Click Here) on the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s website. Please note the species name, location, date, and any other information you can provide about the sighting. The information will be used to better track the movement of these birds and will help biologists better understand ways that Wisconsin can be a good “host” to these special visitors.

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