The great gray owl and the spotted owl are two of Yosemite’s flagship birds that thrive in forest habitat. The 2013 Rim Fire burned more than 78,000 acres within Yosemite, altering important wildlife habitat. Park biologists need to understand how fire affects these birds to develop customized conservation plans.

Approximately 20 percent of the park’s known great gray owl nesting sites are within or near the fire footprint, as are about 50 percent of known spotted owl nest sites. Preliminary research revealed the fire eliminated some important breeding habitat, consumed nest trees and displaced many owls, but it also shows these birds may be more resilient to fire within their breeding areas than was previously thought.

With your support in 2015, scientists conducted more than 200 meadow surveys to look — and listen —for signs of the two owl species. Results from this research help paint a more complete picture of how wildfires affect these iconic birds, and shape fire management in the park. In addition to presenting their findings within and beyond the park, scientists working on this study published an article on “Diversity of Great Gray Owl Nest Sites and Nesting Habitats” in the August 2015 issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management.

Your contribution allowed Yosemite scientists to gather valuable information that will help protect two flagship owl species.

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park.

Sarah Stock

Wildlife Biologist

Project Notes

Protection of the great gray owl is one of the park's highest wildlife priorities. This project provides Sierra-wide leadership in the recovery and restoration of threatened species and their sensitive habitats. There will be both urgent direct action to protect endangered great gray owls, their nests, and juveniles, and long-term strategic action to track population trends, reverse any declines, and prevent extinction.