The state Department of Environmental Conservation is looking into what caused the death of a snowy owl this week in the bird's wintering grounds in Fort Edward.

The owl was found dead along a roadside near the Washington County Grasslands state area, and it may have been hit by a vehicle. Owls do occasionally hunt near roads or eat roadkill.

Officials said there seems to have been a lack of natural prey, voles and mice among them, in parts of the Grasslands this year.

Laurie LaFond, executive director of the Friends of the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area, said the circumstances of the bird's death were unclear.

The Grasslands area, to which snowy and short-eared owls and other raptors winter each year, has been the subject of complaints about trespassing and birdwatchers and photographers behaving improperly each of the last two winters.

-- Don Lehman