Yosemite is the last sanctuary of California’s great gray owl, among the rarest and most threatened bird species in California. As a keystone predator, the great gray owl is a vital part of the meadow ecosystem. However, genetic analysis has shown that the Yosemite population is a unique subspecies particularly vulnerable to habitat and human-related threats.

Past research, funded in part by Yosemite Conservancy, gathered vital information about great gray owl demographics and geographic distribution and concluded that a sound conservation plan is essential to protecting this rare Yosemite species.

A science-based conservation program used non-invasive soundscape recordings to locate owl nests and identify potential disturbances in the surrounding vicinity. Once nest locations were identified, buffers were established to reduce the impact of human activities on owl populations. Another component of the program involved genetically analyzing molted feathers to determine survivorship rates and population declines. This combination of techniques contributed to the protection and management of Yosemite’s great gray owl population.

By taking a proactive, non-invasive approach, together we are building a conservation program to protect this magnificent species for future generations.

Partnering with Yosemite National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.C. Davis, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center.

Sarah Stock

Wildlife Biologist

Project Notes

With fewer than 300 great gray owls in in the greater Yosemite area, the species is rare, mysterious and astonishing to behold. It is humbling to have the opportunity to protect this special bird in such an amazing place and gratifying to know we're giving our great grandchildren the best chance for experiencing the magic of Yosemite'€™s great gray owls in their beautiful meadow homes.