It may not take an eagle eye to spot some rare owls in Door County.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the northern hawk owl, the great grey owl and the boreal owl have made their way to Wisconsin looking for food. There's been a big drop in the population of small rodents that are on these birds' main menus so they've flown south from the boreal forest north of the U.S. border to hunt for them.
So far the owls have been seen in Door, Ashland, Douglas, Racine, Kenosha and Dane counties.
Wildlife officials say the great grey owl and the northern hawk owls are prone to vehicle collisions because they hunt over roadside ditches. The boreal owls may end up at backyard bird feeders looking for mice eating the spilled seed.
Here are guidelines for safe viewing:
- Avoid approaching closer than 20-30 feet at a minimum. For most owls an observation distance of at least 50 feet is recommended. Never, under any circumstance, should you attempt to pet or hold a bird.
- If you are concerned the bird may be ill or injured, contact a local rehabilitator for professional assistance. A directory is available using the keyword “rehab” at dnr.wi.gov.
- Prevent excessive noise. To reduce potential impacts on roosting and hunting owls, talk softly, turn off running vehicles, and minimize movements as possible.
- Avoid excessive use of flash photography, which can disrupt an owl’s activity patterns.
- Be a good neighbor. Obey local rules and ordinances on parking and trespass. Do not block access to public roadways and access points. Be courteous to the local community so that birders and wildlife watchers are welcome the next time a rare bird shows up.
- If you find a dead owl place it in a sealed bag in your freezer and contact your local DNR office for guidance.
- If any issues, contact police or DNR hotline (1-800-847-9367)
Great grey owl - photo by Olaf Oliviero Riemer