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Snowy Owls Captured Near Martin State Airport

MIDDLE RIVER, Md.(WJZ) -- Concern in the skies. Wildlife officials are working with local airports to capture a growing number of snowy owls. The Arctic birds are a rare sight here in Maryland and pose a serious danger to airplanes.

Monique Griego has more on what the state is doing to avoid it.

A new neighbor is sharing the skies over Maryland airports. A record number of snowy owls have been spotted in the state. Just this week, two of them were safely captured at Martin State Airport.

"The magnitude that they've come down this year... for snowy owls, it's like a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Dave Brinker.

Brinker is from Project Snow Storm, a collaborative effort to track this rare irruption of snowy owls that started last year and has continued into 2014.

"It's the largest irruption we've had in decades," Brinker said.

Birdwatchers are having a blast with all the sightings, but airports are working to keep the owls away from runways and airplanes.

It was a strike by a flock of geese that forced U.S. Airways flight 1549 to land in the Hudson River.

"Birds, particularly a large bird like snowy owls, you want to minimize and really prevent any sort of bird strike with that sort of bird," said Jonathan Dean, BWI.

Several snowy owls have either been spotted or trapped at BWI. Wildlife experts there use several tactics to keep them at bay.

"We have a number of propane cannons across the airfield that actually make a loud bang noise to frighten the birds away," Dean said.

The birds caught near Martin State will be released near Frederick or Hagerstown.

Because so little is known about snowy owls, Brinker is just grateful to get a closer glimpse at these beautiful birds.

"This will never happen again in our lifetime," he said.

The snowy owls caught near Martin State Airport should be released sometime Sunday afternoon.

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