Snowy owls arriving early in Missouri

Missouri conservation agents are asking drivers to watch for snowy owls as the arctic birds arrive to search for food.

KOMU-TV reports the owls are being spotted farther south and earlier than usual in Missouri.

A record 69 snowy owls were seen in Missouri during the 2011-2012 season, and Conservation Department wildlife ecologist Brad Jacobs says the record could fall this season.

Jacobs said sightings in Missouri peak about every four years, typically when populations of their prey in the high arctic of North America and Eurasia fall sharply. The owls have been seen since Dec. 1 in Kirksville, Trenton, Macon and Smithville Lake near Kansas City.

Snowy owls typically hunt in open areas and often land on highways, where they may be too focused to notice oncoming vehicles.