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Large Influx Of Snowy Owls Spotted In Mass.

By Lisa Hughes, WBZ-TV
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Award-winning journalist Lisa Hughes is a news anchor for WBZ-TV News...
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BOSTON (CBS) — Officials at New York’s JFK Airport are shooting snowy owls to protect planes from bird strikes after one of the owls was sucked into a plane’s engine.

Authorities killed three of the owls this weekend. There’s no question that birds pose a real danger to aircrafts. But we learned that Boston’s Logan Airport deals with the potential problem differently.

Check: Snowy Owl Sightings

It can happen. We all remember the “miracle on the Hudson” when geese brought down a plane into the river, and made Capt. Sully Sullenberger a household name. And now at New York’s JFK, they’re so worried about snowy owls doing the same thing, they’re hunting the birds.

“The tactics that the Port Authority is taking at JFK are backwards, antiquated and unethical,” says Edita Birnkrant, the NY director of the Friends of Animals.

She says Logan Airport has a better way.

“Since when does Boston outclass New York?” she says.

Well, let’s not get into that.

“Airports and birds don’t mix,” says Norman Smith of Mass. Audubon. “But Logan has a plan, and they have had since 1981 that these birds are trapped, live trapped and we remove them from the airport for the safety of the planes and the birds,” he says.

For 32 years, Smith has done that.

“We’ve probably removed about 500 snowy owls,” he says.

After the birds of prey are trapped, they’re released in different areas along the Massachusetts coast. Smith has captured 21 this season alone.

“Snowy owls generally come from the arctic every year and winter in Massachusetts,” says Smith.

And this year there are a lot of them. And they like Logan, probably because it’s a place to catch an easy meal. There are no plans to change the way they deal with the owls at Logan.

“You’ve got to have the safety of the airplanes in mind, there’s not doubt about it, but if you can do some other method where you can actually have the planes be safe and he birds be safe, why not try that first,” says Smith.

Smith also puts satellite transmitters on some of the snowy owls he catches so he can track their flights, and learn more about why they do what they do. He says it’s a mystery why there are so many snowy owls here this year. It could simply be the cyclical nature of their migration, or a search for food.

Logan has a bird control program that goes beyond trapping and relocating snowy owls where observers keep their eyes on the runways and even chase birds away.

Two snowy owls were recently killed by planes at Logan, but the owls didn’t interfere with the flights.

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