With fewer than 200 left alive, the Great Gray Owls of Yosemite are undergoing intense study and conservation efforts to keep their population sustainable. The rare raptors were cut off in the valleys and canyons of the Sierra Nevada, evolving separately from their Canadian cousins for over 30,000 years after the end of the last ice age. The owls are the largest of any owl species in North America, with wing spans up to five feet in width. Now their numbers are critical, and the state of California has placed them on their endangered species list. The birds are so sensitive to human interaction that it makes studying them very difficult–any disturbance to a nesting owl can be cause for it to leave the nest and never return.
Thank goodness for modern technology and voice recognition software.
Joe Medley, a PhD candidate in ecology at UC Davis, has perfected computer voice recognition software to track the owls, their movements, and their conversations. He is currently involved with the efforts to study Yosemite’s Great Gray Owls and is hopeful the recordings of their hoots and calls can shed some light on the elusive, shy creatures.
To read more about the audio study of the Great Gray Owls of Yosemite, click here.
To visit Yosemite National Park’s page about the owls, click here.