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Becky Schmale/Special to The Herald-Chronicle
Uncommon in Kansas, a snowy owl sits on a fencepost southwest of Olivet. Sightings of the owls in the state this winter are believed to be due to a shortage of the owls’ usual food in tundra areas, lemmings.

Becky Schmale, Scranton, and Larry Dorr, Olivet, were surprised Jan. 7 to see a snowy owl in Osage County. The birds are normally found in the Arctic tundra, but it is believed that due to a shortage of food, they have traveled further south than usual this winter.

The owl spotted by Schmale and Dorr was sitting on a fence post near 333rd Street and Indian Hills Road, southwest of Olivet. Schmale was able to get a quick photo before the owl flew south out of sight.

Snowy owls normally live year round in the Arctic, and their visits to Kansas and other areas outside their normal range have excited bird and wildlife enthusiasts all across the United States. The owls travel south during shortages of lemmings, their usual food source.

According to the Kansas City Star, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is collecting information about snowy owls seen in this area. Photos may be sent to ornithologist Mark Robbins at mrobbins@ku.edu.