The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the spring and summer home for many snowy owls – a favorite creature not only of Harry Potter fans, but throughout the Lower 48 where these magical creatures visit during the winter! Read below for all kinds of snowy owl facts.

To build nest on the snow-less hummocks and small hills in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, snowy owl females scratch out a depression in the ground and then shape it to their liking with their bodies. Snowy owls are fiercely protective of their nests, and will even fight off wolves to protect their young!


Snowy owl males and females look incredibly different, so much so that at first scientists believed they were different species. In mating season, males will engage in elaborate displays. Their dance can involve raising into the air holding a lemming, then descending to the ground with either flapping or v-shaped wings before dropping their prize. Finally, they stand tall and lower their head, fanning out their tail as the female approaches.

If you’re interested in a one-hour National Geographic special on snowy owls, watch this:


Current threats to snowy owls include collisions with power lines, airplanes and other objects, as well increasing contact with humans. Climate change has also had an impact on snowy owl food supply.

For the time-being, the remote Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge allows these owls to avoid human interference in the summer. However, oil drilling in the region would – among other things – bring owls and their nests in closer proximity to contact with humans and their drilling machinery. To protect this special place, please send a note to Congress urging them to keep the Refuge safe.


Perhaps in response to fluctuation in lemming populations, snowy owls regularly visit southern Canada and the northern United States. However, in 2013, an unprecedented number flew further south, going as far as South Carolina, Georgia, and even Florida.

Dave Brinker, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has reported never seeing anything like it. So he decided to study the owls. Read about his work in this NPR article, and watch the accompanying video – The Secrets of Snowy Owls:

Alaska Wilderness League would love to receive reports of snowy owl sightings throughout the United States. If you’ve seen a snowy owl, we’d love you to report your sighting to your local paper and tie in the importance of protecting their Arctic Refuge summer home.