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Snowy Owls and Lemmings

Snowy Owl nest, © Daniel J Cox/

So far this breeding season, ORI researchers report fairly strong Snowy Owl nesting numbers from our study area near Utqiagvik, Alaska. Last year, for example, no nests were reported. What creates these boom and bust conditions? It all comes back to the lemmings. When lemmings do well, Snowy Owls do well. When lemming numbers are down, Snowy Owls may lay just a couple eggs or may not nest at all. The photo above by Dan Cox shows a Snowy nest during a strong lemming year.

The following article, Nothing makes Snowy Owl chicks feel at home like a nest wreathed in dead lemmings, by Ethan Shaw talks more about this dependent relationship.

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