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Florida panther habitat use response to prescribed fire

January 1, 2001

The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is one of the most endangered mammals in the world, with only 30-50 adults surviving in and around Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the adjacent Big Cypress National Preserve. Managers at these areas conduct annual prescribed burns in pine (Pinus sp.) as a cost-effective method of managing wildlife habitat. Our objectives were to determine if temporal and spatial relationships existed between prescribed fire an panther use of pine. to accomplish this, we paired fire-event data from the Refuge an the Preserve with panther radiolocations collected between 1989 and 1998, determined the time that had elapsed since burning had occurred in management units associated with the radiolocations, and generated a frequency distribution based on those times. We then generated ant expected frequency distribution, based on random use relative to time since burning. This analysis revealed that panther use of burned pine habitats was greatest during the first year after a management unit was burned. Also, compositional analysis indicated that panthers were more likely to position their home ranges in areas that contained pine. We conclude that prescribed burning is important to panther ecology. We suggest that panthers were attracted to <1-year-old burns because of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and other prey responses to vegetation and structural changed caused by the prescribed fires. The strong selection for stands burned within 1 year is a persuasive indication that it is the burning in pine, rather than the pine per se, that most influenced habitat use. Before burning rotation lengths are reduced, however, we suggest managers determine effects of shorter burning intervals on vegetation composition and evaluate the landscape-scale changes that would result. 

Publication Year 2001
Title Florida panther habitat use response to prescribed fire
DOI 10.2307/3803287
Authors Catherine S. Dees, Joseph D. Clark, Frank T. van Manen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 1014711
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center