Christmas brought a lot more of the Arctic to Colorado than just snow -- it brought a Snowy Owl.
Birders and photographers packed the northern side of Standley Lake, trying to snap photos of the rare owl.
After we posted this story on Wednesday, some readers said we shouldn't include the specific location of the owl because too many people hoping to get a glimpse could endanger the bird.
Thursday, 9NEWS followed up with Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well as a raptor expert. Both agree it's OK to enjoy animal sightings like these in person, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Try and stay back several hundred feet.
If you're close enough to get a good shot with your phone's camera or if the animal notices you, that's probably too close.
You're also encouraged to use an SLR lens or binoculars.
Birders say the Snowy Owl in Westminster was first spotted on Dec. 21. They say this year is known as an explosion, where owl populations in the Arctic are higher than normal, leading to food competition.
They say the older owls take precedence, pushing the younger ones south to find food.
Rick Nelson is a wildlife photographer from Loveland. He says ever since he picked up wildlife photography seven years ago, he's always wanted to see a Snowy Owl. It's what drove him to travel the 50 miles to Westminster.
"She's a gorgeous bird," he said. "And I still have a 12-hour shift after this."
Birders say there are currently three Snowy Owls that have been spotted across the state of Colorado.
The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program says Snowy Owls are not used to an urban environment so people close-by makes life harder.
The birds have to expend more energy to evade humans, whom they see as a potential enemy.
That can be challenging for owls after a long migration, especially if they don't have the calories they need to stay warm.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife says when owls or other wild animals get used to people, they lose their natural fear which can endanger them and you.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers the following tips and advice for more rewarding, safer, and responsible wildlife viewing.
- Time your outing for morning or evening, when wildlife are most active.
- Wear earth-tone clothes,like gray, khaki and olive green. Animals will tolerate you better if you blend into the surroundings.
- Keep your distance,for the safety and comfort of both animals and people. If an animal changes its behavior, stops eating or seems nervous at your presence, it's time to back away.
- Stay quiet and still.Noise and quick movements mean “danger” to wildlife. They may run or fly off, sometimes leaving their nests or young unprotected. Never chase or harass wildlife.
- Look to the edges of the landscape,(where the forest meets the meadow for example), because many wildlife species spend time along habitat edges.
- Look for movement, shapes, and color contrasts. Motion is the best giveaway. Also, look for parts of an animal such as its head, tail, ear, wing, or antler.
- Use binoculars,a spotting scope, or a telephoto lens for a close-up view.
- Use your car as a viewing blind.Pull safely off the road. Respect others who are viewing the same animals.
- Avoid animals that behave unexpectedly or aggressively.They may be ill, injured, or have young nearby.
- Leave your pets at home.Pets hinder wildlife watching. They can chase, injure, or kill wildlife, or be injured or killed.
- Do not feed wild animals.It can change their behavior in ways that can be harmful—both to them and to people. Reserve feeding for 'backyard' birds.