USDA Wildlife Services assisted Chicago Department of Aviation capture snowy owls and relocate them 75 miles away from the airport

CHICAGO, 2014-03-27 — /Travel PR News/ — Even though the calendar says it spring, the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) still has some visitors who serve as reminders of the long winter of 2013-2014.

Several snowy owls have been spotted in and around O’Hare and Midway International Airports.

In fact, the number of snowy owl sightings this winter in the Chicago has far surpassed any in recent history. These large, majestic birds are usually found in icy habitats like the North Pole, Alaska, Greenland, Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. During the winter, they will venture further south to locations like Chicago in search of food.

Snowy Owls are a delight for avid bird watchers along Chicago’s lakefront or parks, but their presence on or near busy airfields is another matter. Simply put, birds and aircraft do not mix.

A full-time staff of expert USDA wildlife biologists at O’Hare and Midway are tasked with the critical job of ensuring wildlife do not interfere with aircraft operations. The increased presence of snowy owls at Chicago’s airports this winter have kept the biologists busy as they manage a delicate balance between protecting the safety of aircraft operations and protecting these majestic birds.

USDA Wildlife Services assists the Chicago Department of Aviation with a management plan designed to discourage wildlife from utilizing the airfield which includes: habitat management such as planting grass types not attractive to wildlife; daily vehicle patrols to disperse wildlife; and trapping and relocation of wildlife.

These measures have been very successful in mitigating snowy owls and other wildlife presence on the airfield while preserving air traffic safety.

Owls captured this winter have been fitted with a U.S. Geological Survey band, and relocated 75 miles away from the airport in a suitable habitat.

“On behalf of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I want to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of the USDA Wildlife biologists at O’Hare and Midway,” said CDA Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino. “Chicago’s airports are among the busiest in the world and it’s critical to have wildlife management programs in place to ensure our airports maintain the highest levels of safety.”

With the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures, the presence of snowy owls in the Chicago area is anticipated to decrease. But as they always do, 24/7, the USDA wildlife teams at Chicago’s airports will continue to monitor and manage wildlife activity to ensure safe airport operations.

To learn more about the work of USDA wildlife biologists, click here.

To learn more about snowy owls, visit the Illinois Raptor Center​.​


Two Snowy Owls at O'Hare International Airport

Two Snowy Owls at O’Hare International Airport