If the holiday lights and dropping temperatures weren't enough signs that winter has hit the SouthCoast, the arrival of Artic owls might do the trick. This past weekend marked the beginning of snowy owl season and according to MassAudobon, Westport and New Bedford are hot spots for sightings.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society also notes that the number of snowy owl sightings in our state typically depends on lemming populations up North. The snowy owl's primary food source is the arctic lemming and if populations are high, more owls will have the strength to fly this far south – and research out of Canada says it was a good year for lemming populations.

So though no SouthCoast snowy owl sightings have happened yet, MassAudubon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want people to be prepared for spotting these stunning raptors. Their beautiful white feathers and fuzzy feet make many people feel compelled to approach snowy owls when they see them, but that is definitely not the safest way to do things. So here are some tips from the experts on making the most of your Artic owl sighting.

Never Get Too Close to a Snowy Owl

Approaching any wildlife is a bad idea. No matter how cute they may appear, they are wild animals and they need their space. Snowy owls especially go through a lot just to fly this far south, so getting too close is often viewed as harassment and can put the owl on the defensive. Experts actually suggest watching them from your car whenever possible.

Use a Zoom Lens or Binoculars to Spot Snowy Owls

Along with not approaching them comes the tip to not try and photograph them up close either. Sure, a sweet shot is nice, but a camera in an owl's face is extremely stressful for these beautiful birds. A better bet is too try out a zoom lens or see better with some binoculars.

Do Not Try to Feed Snowy Owls

Snowy owls have a very specific diet and it does not include bread or bird seed. Owls are raptors, meaning they are meat eaters, so it's best to let them find their own food. Snowy owls, like all owls, are great hunters and as long as they are healthy can find their own food even this far south.

Call a Local Wildlife Rehab Facility for Any Sick/Injured Animals

Trying to help an injured animal is noble, but not exactly legal. You must be a registered and licensed wildlife rehabilitator to take these animals into your home and care for them and luckily there are a lot of people close by who have the correct qualifications. If you find a snowy owl that has been injured or appears ill, call an expert.

Good luck spotting those snowy owls as they start migrating Ssouth and share your sightings with us on our app.

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Massachusetts Wildlife You Can Legally Take Home as Pets

Massachusetts has such diverse wildlife, but also strict limitations on what you can bring home and cuddle. In fact, there are only certain reptiles and amphibians you can keep as pets (so no raccoons, squirrels, bunnies, etc.) and you are only allowed two of each. The state also says "you cannot sell, barter, or exchange them." Also, keep in mind, these are wildlife, so it's probably best to just leave them be and maybe visit a reptile shop instead to get your next pet.

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