Great Gray OwlGreat Gray Owl

The Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)(GGOW) is a California State-endangered raptor that is distributed in the central Sierra Nevada. Despite State-endangered status, GGOWs have received limited research attention and significant scientific data gaps exist regarding information necessary to formulate comprehensive and scientifically-defensible management and monitoring strategies.

The core breeding distribution of GGOWs in California is centered on Yosemite National Park and the immediately adjacent and surrounding Stanislaus, Sierra, and Sequoia National Forests, with a few additional documented pairs in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park (Winter 1986, Rich 2000). Available evidence indicates that GGOWs have a very limited and isolated distribution in California. The California population is the southern-most population in North America, with the closest known breeding population occurring in southern Oregon (Bull and Duncan 1997).
Given the apparent geographic isolation of the GGOWs in the Yosemite region, it important to determine whether the central Sierra Nevada population of GGOWs is genetically distinct from other populations of GGOWs and warranting of greater conservation attention.

The Wildlife and Ecology Unit is involved in a collaborative effort involving the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, California Department of Fish and Game, Bureau of Land Management Oregon, US National Parks Service, and Lindsay Wildlife Museum Wildlife Hospital to determine the population genetic structure of Great Gray Owls in western North America.

Researchers: Joe Medley, Eric Jepsen, Joshua Hull, Holly Ernest, and collaborators

Great Gray Owl Publications of the Ernest lab

A new subspecies of Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) in the Sierra Nevada of California, USA. J. Hull, A Engilis, J. Medley, E. Jepsen, J. Duncan, H. Ernest, J. Keane. 2014. Journal of Raptor Research.48(1):68-77..

Range-wide genetic differentiation among North American great gray owls (Strix nebulosa) reveals a distinct lineage restricted to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Hull, JM, Keane JJ, Savage WK, Godwin SA; Shafer J; Jepsen EP, Gerhardt R,Stermer C, and HB Ernest. In press 2010. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Winter Distribution and Conservation Status of the Sierra Nevada Great Gray Owl. Jepsen EP, Keane J, Ernest HB. 2011. Journal of Wildlife Management. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.239.