Update: We did it!

Meet NRF’s Snowy Owls: Badger and Austin

Thanks to our generous supporters, a sponsorship from Wisconsin Public Service Foundation, and the support of local partners Madison Audubon Society and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, as many as six Wisconsin snowy owls will be outfitted with transmitters!

Researchers will begin field work after the holidays, and once the owls are fitted with the transmitters, Project SNOWstorm will create a tracking page for each owl where the public can follow the owls. We will share that information once it goes live.

A Rare Opportunity to Track Snowy Owls

The snowy owl is one of Wisconsin’s most mysterious yet beloved birds. “More than 150 snowy owls have already been observed in Wisconsin this year—far more than in an average winter,” said Ryan Brady, bird monitoring coordinator for WDNR and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. “We know surprisingly little about snowy owls,” Brady added, “but this is our chance to learn more.”

Please donate by December 20th to help scientists take advantage of this rare opportunity to place tracking devices on birds and monitor their movements throughout the year.

Project SNOWstorm, an international conservation effort conducting cutting-edge snowy owl research, is working fast to raise the funds needed to outfit several snowy owls in each state throughout the Great Lakes region with specially-designed transmitters. These solar-powered tracking devices will improve scientists’ understanding of snowy owl movements and habitat needs by providing precise, real-time information on a bird’s location several times an hour, 24 hours a day (and don’t worry, these transmitters don’t harm the birds!).

The Natural Resources Foundation has committed to help fund some transmitters, but we need your help to do it! The funds we raise will ensure that some of Wisconsin’s snowy owls receive transmitters!

We believe in this project so much that we are offering a dollar-for-dollar match up to $3,000.

Time is of the essence, as the research team hopes to put transmitters on the owls as quickly as possible, to document early-season movement patterns before the owls settle into their winter territories. Please, make a gift today.

With your support we can better understand the mysteries of the snowy owl, while supporting their future conservation. Without adequate funding there’s a chance that no transmitters would be deployed in Wisconsin. Please, act now and make this important research project possible!

How to Donate

Support the Wisconsin Snowy Owl Project with a tax-deductible donation to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Make sure to select “Wisconsin Snowy Owl Project” from the drop-down list in the special designation section. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $3,000) by the Natural Resources Foundation.

Background on the Snowy Owl

Snowy owls are a northern species, nesting above the Arctic Circle. While some snowy owls remain near their breeding range during the winter, others head south, to southern Canada and the northern United States. Each year, a small number of snowy owls are spotted in Wisconsin – but every so often, large numbers move into Wisconsin, in an event known as an “irruption”. And 2017 is one of those big years! Wisconsin has one of the highest numbers of snowy owls this year, in part due to the concentrating effect of the Great Lakes, giving our state a prime opportunity to contribute to the collaborative efforts of Project SNOWstorm.

Population Decline and Opportunities to Inform Conservation Action

However, snowy owl populations are thought to be rapidly declining. They are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, and as one of 33 “Common Birds in Steep Decline” by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s 2014 State of the Birds report. Exact causes of their decline are unknown but may be linked to climate change affecting prey availability on the Arctic breeding grounds, and collisions with vehicles and other infrastructure during migration and winter. Due to their far-northern breeding range and unpredictable movement patterns, snowy owls are notoriously difficult to study, , which serves as a barrier to understanding and ultimately conserving the species.
Technology today provides an unprecedented chance to better understand these birds, and help inform conservation action. The solar-powered transmitters used by Project SNOWstorm transmit data via cell towers, and collect and store high-resolution data even when out of cell range. This information can be used to understand snowy owl movement patterns, home range size, migration timing, habitat use, important migration stopover sites, foraging behavior, where they spend the summer, threats to their survival, and how they interact with other snowy owls. This type of data is critical to informing conservation efforts.

You can track the movements of any tagged bird at Project SNOWstorm.

We are grateful for support from individual donors as well as Wisconsin Public Service Foundation and the Bird Protection Fund for providing funding for transmitters!