VICKSBURG, Mich., — An emaciated snowy owl was discovered in a Kalamazoo County field this week. The bird, which was also covered in lice, has been rescued and is currently being nursed back to health.
“This is unusual to be this far south,” explained Sharron Butler, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation expert who is taking care of the bird. “We’ve been doing this over 30 years, this is our second [snowy owl].”
Butler said the birds make their home in the Arctic Circle and migrate during the winter for food. They’ve been known to fly into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and parts of Northern Michigan like Ludington and Manistee.
“Evidently he decided that we were his Florida,” explained Butler. “He appears to be young and healthy. He just ran out of energy, his migration flight was extremely long to get here.”
The bird has since been examined by a local animal clinic and is slowly being prepared to eat normal food again. Butler said a lack of lemmings–the snowy owl’s main food supply–is another reason the birds are being driven further south.
“It’s almost a direct relationship between weather and food source, in their case lemmings,” she explained. “They go where they have to go to survive.”
Butler estimates the bird is young and equivalent to the age of a 12-15 year old human. Since it has no physical injuries to his wings or legs, she hopes to be able to release him back into the wild by March. Until then, she plans on “fattening him up” and filling up his tank for the long journey home. She’s not worried that the bird will become healthy and lack the desire to leave.
“If he gets the chance to go home, he’s going home. It’s programmed in there,” she said. “He will go back to the Arctic, which is home.”