Snowy Owls are usually found in tundra habitat from the eastern Canadian Maritime Provinces west to Alaska. Most winters, some will migrate farther south but are most often found in coastal areas or the very northern tier of the US. Coastal marshes and often times airports are where they will settle in for the winter. These habitats mimic the open tundra habitat where they spend most of their time. In years such as this where a major irruption is taking place in the northeast, they are being found at interior locations as well. They prefer wide open spaces so the vast expanse of the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR may well attract them as they move about. Be on the lookout as you walk the trails – they will roost on the ground and may appear to be a lump of snow so look closely.
When irruptions like this take place, there are usually one of two reasons for it. The first would be a crash in the lemming population which is their primary food source on the tundra but that does not appear to be the case this year. The other possible cause would be above average breeding success this past summer. Most owls being reported are young birds so they are likely wandering farther than normal in search of food to sustain them through the winter.
About the Complex
This complex also includes Wallkill River and Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuges.
Shawangunk Grasslands is managed as part of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Learn more about the complex
About the NWRS
The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants.
Learn more about the NWRS
Important Things to Know
Shawangunk Grasslands NWR is looking for people who value and enjoy this refuge; people who appreciate this public land and want to enhance and promote programs and activities that involve the community and support the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the role of a Friends Group. Please contact Fran_Stephenson@fws.gov or 973-702-7266 x 10 if you are interested and want more information.
The refuge has added two more wildlife observation blinds to go with the two already here. The blinds were put together on site by refuge staff and will be placed along the trails by refuge volunteer Ralph Tabor. During the winter, these provide an opportunity to get out of the worst of the wind and cold to photograph and observe the many raptors that are here. At other times of year they allow visitors to quietly observe the numerous species of grassland birds that frequent the refuge.
Shawangunk Grasslands NWR is a natural area without restroom facilities or potable water sources. Please plan accordingly before visiting.Information to plan your visit.
Shawangunk Grasslands offers a variety of ways to enjoy the refuge including wildlife viewing, photography and hunting.Learn about activities on the refuge
Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge was established to support grassland-dependent migratory birds and wintering raptors. The refuge has been identified as a Biodiversity Focus Area and an Important Bird Area (Audubon New York), a designation given only to places that support significant abundance and diversity of birds.
Page Photo Credits Shawangunk Grasslands - Steven Brooks., All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted., Shawangunk grasslands in winter - Steven Brooks, Winter at Shawangunk - Steven Brooks, Spring meadow - Steven Brooks, Short-eared owl - Ed Frampton
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2014