Huffpost New York

2 Snowy Owls Shot At Airport, As Birds Deemed Danger To Planes: Report [UPDATED]

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SNOW OWL
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reportedly told workers to shoot down snowy owls they see in the area. Last week, one of the birds flew into a plane's engine while it was still on the tarmac. | Art Wolfe via Getty Images

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a warning last week about an unexpected enemy in the sky: the snowy owl.

Port Authority added the white bird to its "no-fly list" last week and instructed workers to shoot any snowy owls spotted in the area, WNBC reports. Since then, at least two snowy owls have been killed at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The new order was apparently issued in response to an incident last week in which an owl flew into a plane's engine while it was still on the tarmac, the outlet reports.

Port Authority did not immediately answer The Huffington Post's request for comment. [Update: Port Authority has released as statement saying it is working with officials to implement a plan to "trap and relocate snowy owls that pose a threat to aircraft." See full statement below.]

Some cities, such as Boston, have alternate means of monitoring avian air traffic. Thanks to a longtime partnership with Boston airports, the Massachusetts Audubon Society has been capturing birds from nearby airport facilities since the early '80s, according to Boston Magazine. Over time, environmentalists have trapped, tagged and released 500 birds.

Still, some say human attempts to control bird populations are futile, and ultimately, won't reduce the number of bird-plane collisions. An October op-ed in The New York Times mentions Richard Dolbeer, former national coordinator of the Agriculture Department’s Airport Wildlife Hazards Program, who reportedly suggested avian radars as an alternative to population control.

UPDATE: Dec. 10 - Port Authority has released a statement about its handling of snowy owls. The press release notes:

The Port Authority is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to move immediately toward implementing a program to trap and relocate snowy owls that pose a threat to aircraft at JFK and LaGuardia airports. The Port Authority’s goal is to strike a balance in humanely controlling bird populations at and around the agency’s airports to safeguard passengers on thousands of aircrafts each day. Over the past two weeks, five planes at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports were struck by snowy owls that have been migrating to our region in far higher than typical numbers this year.