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New Owl Subspecies Found in Yosemite

The great gray owls in and around Yosemite National Park have been found to be a distinct subspecies. Researchers captured 29 of the large owls in the Sierra Nevada, (they have five-foot wingspans) and took blood samples. Captured owls were held bare-handed and the owls were hooded to reduce stress. Also blood samples from owls in Canada and southern Oregon were collected.

Analysis of blood samples using computers showed genetic codes differed enough the Sierra Nevada owls are distinct species. Scientists estimated the Sierra Nevada population has not interbred with the nothern populations for 26,700 years. Behavior differences such as nest site selection, migration patterns, and prey preferences were also observed.

Lead researchers on the project were John J. Keane of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, and Holly B. Ernest and Joshua M. Hull of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis. They suggested naming the Yosemite area great gray owls Strix nebulosa yosemitensis. The great gray owl species is named Strix nebulosa. In California great gray owls are listed by the state as an endangered species. There are just 150 of them within Yosemite National Park.

When it is breeding season for the owls in the park, no construction work is allowed near their nests, because it can disturb them and interfere with their nesting.

The total number of animal species in Yosemite is about 400. It is one of the most popular national parks with about 4 million visitors per year. The park will be 120 years old on October 1st.

Image Credit: BS Thurnerhof

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78 comments

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5:53PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Fascinating. What a great video!

5:43PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

Fascinating. What a great video!

10:48AM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

I drove home one night at 1 am and a white bird in the middle of snow crossed my path. I was so scared but I stopped in a skid and he/she flew off. It was a white barn owl. God bless them... they are too cute.!!!

1:33PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

5:51AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Thanks for the article.

3:59PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

What a wonderful discovery.

9:20PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Interesting , Thankyou

7:57PM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

it really helped with my science endangered species project thanks >3

8:36AM PST on Feb 27, 2012

What a beautiful & curious owl, thanks for the article.

8:31AM PST on Feb 27, 2012

I wish they wouldn't let out about new animals until they know how to protect them, there are to many who have to have something new and different and don't know how to be good and kind to them. Good luck with this beautiful bird, and keep it safe!!!

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