By LAUREN LEWIS
TRIBES HILL -- A snowy owl lay injured at the side of the road Wednesday when Nancy Unczur noticed it and stopped on her way home from work.
"I saw something on the side of the road," Unczur said. "It looked like a big white snowball, like after the plows have gone through."
But it wasn't a snowball.
"When I got closer I saw it was moving, and when I went by I saw it was a snowy owl," she said.
Unczur thought it may have been eating something on the side of the road, but that thought didn't sit right with her.
"I kept going, but then decided to turn around," Unczur said. "I thought maybe he was hurt."
When she pulled over, the owl jumped the guardrail and Unczur said he had something wrapped around his leg.
Unczur called her friend Tom Georgia to help her catch the injured bird.
"He brought a blanket so we could catch him," Unczur said. "It had gone way out into one of the cow pastures, so Tom went and got him and we brought him back to my house."
After making a few more phone calls, Unczur got in touch with Sarah Mcdaniel-Austin, a wildlife rehabilitator in Gloversville.
Unczur said someone came to pick up the bird and transfer him to Mcdaniel-Austin's care facility.
"The owl is doing well, thus far," Mcdaniel-Austin said. "He was shock-y when he came in due to the trauma and stress. We're not really sure how long he was injured out there."
The owl's foot was injured, but no other injuries were apparent.
"He lost a toe," Mcdaniel-Austin said. "And he has some frost bite on the rest of his foot."
Losing a toe may potentially prevent Mcdaniel-Austin from releasing the bird back into the wild, but there are more factors to consider.
"It will take a while to find out how extensive the tissue damage is," Mcdaniel-Austin said.
There has been an increase in snowy owl sightings in recent months and Project SNOWstorm has set out to band snowy owls because of the huge volumes of birds coming south.
According to the project's website: "Snowy owls come south in unpredictable invasions known as 'irruptions.' It's mostly about food and babies, but we have a lot to learn about this phenomenon -- and this winter's is the biggest in decades."
The website says that this winter's irruption is the largest in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions in 40 or 50 years.
The injured owl was just banded Jan. 16 of this year, in New Hampshire.