Snowy owls have joined the sad fraternity of winged creatures that the Port Authority has deemed unwelcome at JFK, with officials having killed three of them over the weekend with a shotgun.
The trouble for the owls began after one, having taken up residence atop a taxiway sign on the runway, got sucked into an airplane turbine, according to the Daily News. We learned after the Great Geese incident of 2009 that if there's one thing aviation officials don't like, its wildlife entangling itself with flight operations.
As such, the snowy owls have joined Canada geese, mute swan, red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, crows, rock pigeons and double-breasted cormorants on the list of volant creatures unwelcome on airport property. Unlike crows and pigeons, though, snowy owls are adorable, and their murder has raised the ire of animal lovers who would rather see them trapped and relocated, rather than shot.
“These are beautiful birds that I or anyone else I know who has worked at JFK have never heard pose a problem,” a Port Authority source told the tabloid. “Even a wildlife specialist didn't understand why they were being killed because they are not part of a large population and they are easy to catch and relocate, unlike seagulls.”
It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating the perplexing arrival of the owls to NYC, having appeared further south in recent years thanks to global warming. They typically seek out environments that resemble the tundra, and from an owl's standpoint, an airport runway is a worthy substitute. For a species whose natural predators are more along the lines of arctic foxes than bullets, the large swaths of open space provide high visibility when it comes to preparing a counter-attack against approaching hunters. The only solution now seems to be to level the playing field—it's up to us to equip the owls with tiny bullet proof vests and helmets, and maybe even arm them to the teeth with pint-sized artillery. It's only fair.
Port Authority has not yet responded to requests for comment.