This winter, Snowy Owls have been sighted in Illinois almost daily. According to INHS Ornithologist Steve Bailey, "It's probably the biggest Snowy Owl invasion in years." He explains that this year's high lemming population led to an increase in young snowy owls. Bailey asks bird watchers to be responsible and keep their distance. Flushing an owl causes them to expend a great deal of energy and these birds have already migrated up to 1,000 miles. And as for those fabulous photographs of a snowy owl approaching the camera with talons outstretched? Those are often staged by photographers baiting the owls with captive raised mice. Bailey reminds bird watchers to "keep the bird's welfare in mind," and not lure the owls towards dangerous roadways with store bought mice that may harbor diseases.