Outdoors

Field reports: Visiting snowy owls find roads rough

Officer Curt Wood holds an injured snowy owl.
Officer Curt Wood holds an injured snowy owl.

MIGRANTS – Snowy owls seem to be showing up in ones and twos all over the northern tier of the United States this winter as they migrate from arctic homes to winter hunting grounds.

The beautiful, white birds are a common winter attraction in this region, especially in Lincoln and Stevens counties. But their easiness around civilization can be detrimental when they leave the tundra.

Snowy owls spend most of their lives in treeless habitats, where they’ve evolved to launch their rodent hunts from the ground or low perches such as fence posts.

Many snowy owls migrate thousands of miles over wilderness only to meet doom in a vehicle collision as they cross a road.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer Curt Wood picked up an injured snowy owl from the roadside just northeast of Davenport on Nov. 25.

The bird was taken to the Washington State University Veterinary School, where it’s being treated for a fractured wing and dislocated elbow.

“It’s probably not going to be releasable,” said school spokesman Charlie Powell. “It’s a little too warm during summer to keep him comfortable, but snowy owls are very easy to place in zoos, so it will be in good hands.”

A few days later, officer Wood picked up another ailing snowy owl, also near Davenport on the Sunset Highway. He had to make a stop in Wilbur first, so he let the local third-graders get a close look at the migrant before bringing it in to the Ponti Veterinary Hospital.

Wood said the kids were intrigued by the white owl.

Unfortunately, the Ponti clinic staff said they were unable to save the bird.

Rich Landers

Locals may challenge Selkirk caribou habitat

ENDANGERED – Bonner County commissioners may challenge a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposal to designate 375,562 acres as critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou in the southern Selkirk Mountains.

The issue is on the meeting agenda for Tuesday, when the commissioners may discuss invoking a federal rule that requires agencies to coordinate with local officials on land use matters.

“We have a dog in this fight and we have tools that have never been used before,” commission chairman Cornel Rasor told the Sandpoint Daily Bee.

The FWS estimates about 45 woodland caribou exist in the southern Selkirks.

The proposal to protect habitat is chilling to businesses at Priest Lake, where residents a few years ago were rocked by Forest Service restrictions on snowmobile entry into the Selkirk caribou recovery zone.

Staff and wire reports



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