Snowy owls make Oregon home for winter

Snowy owls make Oregon home for winter »Play Video
In this Dec. 5. 2011, file photo, a snowy owl comes in for a landing onto a power supply box, in Albany, Ore. Wildlife scientists are puzzling over the appearance of the snowy owl in Oregon, a bird rarely seen in the state. The owls are usually found in Alaska or Canada's tundra, where their white feathers serve as camouflage. But in several places across Oregon, including Burns, Astoria, Lincoln City and Eugene, the Bend Bulletin reports snowy owl sightings. (AP Photo/Albany Democrat-Herald, David Patton, File)

EUGENE, Ore. - They're white as snow, they're small - and they're sure cute.

"Only the snowy owls have feathers that I think look like moccasins," said Kit Lacy, education director at the Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene.

For whatever reasons, the snowy owls have set up camp in Oregon and all over the west. 

"I'm aware of individual birds being seen: One was seen near Fern Ridge Reservoir over there in Eugene. There was one in Albany; one near Newport," said Roy Lowe from the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge

He said the owls started arriving in November.

The only snowy owl you are sure to see in south Eugene is in his own enclosure: Archimedes at the Cascades Raptor Center. Why his buddies are here is pretty much (pun intended) up in the air.

"Everyone thinks they're down here because they are starving and there's no evidence - no scientific evidence of that at all," Lacy said.

She said this phenomenon happens about every 5 years when the owls venture this far south.

"The food might be just fine; it might just be that there's a lot of snowy owls from this season's breeding." says Lacy.

There have been sightings of snowy owls around the mid-valley, a few in Eugene and at least one sighting near or at the Eugene Airport.

"The very open country of the airport area is a great hunting ground for snowy owls," Lacy said.

Scientists say the owls will likely call Oregon home all through the winter - but if you see one, don't get too close.

"They are great birds to see. They're beautiful," said Lowe. "If people do see them we ask that they keep a safe distance away and don't affect the behavior of the bird."

He said snowy owls have also been spotted in Bend, Burns and at the north Oregon Coast near Seaside.

They're not on any endangered list but are state and federally protected, Lowe said.