Date of this Version
Direct mortality to wildlife due to prescribed fire is of concern to land managers using fire as a management tool. The ability of individual animals to escape fire is critical to the long-term survival of species inhabiting fire-maintained systems. Many wildlife species in Florida are both adapted to and dependent upon periodic fire to maintain suitable habitat (Myers and Ewel 1990. Ecosystems of Florida. University of Central Florida Press, Orlando, Florida. 765 pp.). However, species not adapted to survive in pyrogenic landscapes might suffer directly from fire-induced mortality; consequently fire might be a limiting factor. Long-term fire exclusion in many of Florida's forests, habitats that historically burned regularly under natural conditions (lightning ignition), have undergone shifts in vegetation composition, fuel loads (higher), and leaf litter accumulation (higher), essentially altering the vegetative associations (Myers and Ewel, op. cit.). Likewise, the suite of wildlife species that inhabit these systems might also shift over time (Myers and Ewel, op. cit.). We hypothesize that one such change could favor fossorial species that utilize the litter for cover and foraging. Without normal woodland fire return intervals, non-fire adapted species may be able to augment their populations to a "pseudo-elevated" status resulting in denser populations than were historically present. However, data concerning historical population levels of many species are often lacking and the documentation of wildlife mortality as a result of fire can be difficult.