Many people want to get up close and personal to photograph this beautiful bird but it often comes up that some people are willing to keep pushing their proximity to the bird until they fly away and then proceed to follow them to their next perch. Also people will make noises or try to cause the snowy to fly so they can capture an in-shot photo. This draws the discussion about whether or not we are interfering and/or disturbing the birds ability to hunt. I've also heard some people point out that they feel causing the bird to fly in extreme cold temperatures is forcing them to use up unnecessary energy that they need to stay warm.
2) Use of mice as "bait" for photographers
Some photographers and/or birders will purchase live mice that they can release into the hunting area of the snowy owls in order to capture the bird in the action of flight or catching their prey. Many feel this is causing the juvenile snowy owls to become to comfortable around humans for food while others feel it isn't much different than having a bird feeder full of seed in your backyard. I've also seen a number of references from people that are against feeding store bought mice to the snowy owls because of the potential for them to ingest pathogens that their immune system is not used to.
3) Banding and tracking the owls
While most people seem to agree that studying and tracking snowy owls can benefit our understanding of the bird and also help us to better understand when they are in need, there is currently controversy over a tracking project called Project SNOWstorm. The point in question is whether or not the tracking devices they are attaching to the birds is causing them distress and/or death due to its interference with their movement.
How to spot a snowy owl
- Sitting on the ground in a plowed field. What's hard about this spot is that from a distance they look like nothing more than an oddly shaped snow pile
- On top of a telephone pole or light pole near an open field. From a distance this can often look like just a plastic bag or something else blowing in the wind. I've been fooled by that many times!
- In the far north, I've often seen them at the very top of a pine tree