Snowy Owls have been travelling south from the Canadian Arctic in large numbers in recent years, and owl experts aren’t sure why.

“Global warming or whatever you want to blame it on. Things seem to be changing because there are increasing numbers every year,” said Cathy Stockman, Director of Operations at Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge in Pefferlaw.  

Young owls, in search of food have been left to fend for themselves. “Mom and dad do not spend any time training these guys to hunt. They’re pretty much ‘out you go, on your own’," says Stockman.

The owls’ lack of experience hunting and gathering food has forced them to search for food along roadsides in Bradford East-Gwillimbury. Several of the owls have been struck by vehicles.

“There’s one snow here right now that had a humeral fracture. One of his eyes was gone, had a lot of problems.” Trinita Barboza, an intern with the National Wildlife Centre has treated many of the injured birds. “It’s a long process, but it’s very rewarding”

Stockman says gaining the trust of the birds has been a challenge. “For all of these animals, we are a major predator; whether they have ever seen a person or not, it’s a huge threat so it’s very stressful for them.”

Following their rehab at Shades of Hope, the birds will be sent to the Owl Foundation to undergo flight testing to determine whether they are ready to return to the wild.