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Great gray owls unfazed by California megafire

Cara J

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After California’s Rim Fire burned through Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest in 2013, managers wondered what impact it had on wildlife in the region. The 104,000-acre fire was the largest recorded fire ever in California’s Sierra Nevada, one of a series of massive, high-severity wildfires attributed to climate change that have burned across the West, particularly California, which was in the midst of a historic drought. Managers were particularly concerned about the great gray owl (Strix nebulosa), whose population of fewer than 100 pairs in California have made it a state endangered species, many of which occupy the area in and around the burn area. “When the Rim Fire burned, it was like a bullseye on the heart of the geographic range in northern California,” said Rodney Siegel, executive director of The Institute for Bird Populations. “About a quarter of their nesting territories were inside the fire perimeter. There was a lot of concern in the park and elsewhere that wildlife would be threatened by the fire, and the great gray owl in particular seemed like one of the species that would be the most vulnerable.” Yet what researchers found surprised them. Not only did the owls not [...]

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