YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (CBS/AP) — Scientists working in Yosemite National Park are eavesdropping on forest creatures, hoping to gain a greater understanding of a rare subspecies of Great Gray Owls.

The raptors number fewer than 200 in and around the park, and even the slightest human intervention can disrupt their breeding and feeding cycles.

Scientists are using data-compression digital audio recorders to capture forests sounds. They developed software to discern the low-frequency owl calls from other noises in an effort to determine their numbers and rates of reproduction.

The raptors were cut off from their plentiful Canadian counterparts during the ice age 30,000 years ago. Since then scientists have been looking for ways to protect them and better understand their habitat-specific evolution.

Great Gray Owls are the largest in North America with 5-foot wingspans.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)


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