This spring, we were really fortunate to have a pair of great horned owls nest successfully right at Officer's Row in Mammoth.
When the owlets hatch, they're pretty tiny and they're not visible. It was about four weeks before any sign of activity in the nest. We were all like parents or grandparents or whatever because we were looking for any kind of sign that said the nest was successful.
Shortly before the middle of May, we got to see that there were young owlets in the nest. Owlets grow pretty quickly. They can start hopping out of the nest at about six or seven weeks, and be capable of short flights at about seven weeks. But they're dependent on the adults for several weeks after that, the male especially, to bring food to them. They're learning how to fly, but landing is always an issue, and landing on something you can eat is even more challenging.
By late fall or early winter, they're going to be out of the adult's territory... if they're still alive. Juvenile mortality is really high in the natural world and that dispersal - not having the adults to depend on for food - is the challenging time. That's make or break time.
What was fortunate about this pair, this year and in previous years, is they're pretty tolerant of lots of people observing them from a safe distance. It doesn't mean they're tame, by any means: the distance to remain from them is still 75 feet, but people loved it. Because it's a treat, it's a great treat to get to see owls.
I'm Katy Duffy. I'm the interpretive planner for Yellowstone National Park.
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Great horned owls live in Alaska, Florida and virtually everywhere in-between, but people rarely get to see them because they mostly hunt at night. During Spring 2014, a pair of owls delighted crowds in Mammoth Hot Springs when they established a visible nest, and hunted during the day since that's when their local prey (the Uinta ground squirrel) is most active.
Last updated: February 24, 2022