National Park Service


Date of this Version



Natural Resource Report NPS/HTLN/NRR 2010/193 / NPS 920/102093, May 2010, v, 16 pages

Published by U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Natural Resource Program Center, Fort Collins, Colorado

Also available at:

Please cite this publication as:

Gaetani, M. S., K. Cook, and S. A. Leis. 2010. Fire effects on wildlife in tallgrass prairie. Natural Resource Report NPS/HTLN/NRR—2010/193. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.


United States government work. Public domain material.



In the tallgrass prairie region of North America, grasslands are often burned on a rotational schedule to prevent the encroachment of woody species and maintain the vigor of plant communities. Although prescribed fire practitioners often consider the effects of fire on plant communities, the effects of fire on wildlife are also important. Practitioners as well as park visitors inquire about the effects of fire on birds, deer, and other animals of interest. Many wildlife species focus on vegetation structure in choosing suitable habitats, and fire can temporarily alter that structure. Wildlife species have varying habitat needs, and therefore, a variety of responses to fire. To accommodate the variety of habitat needs for wildlife within grassland, fire can be implemented heterogeneously. For example, varying the time of year a burn occurs, and burning only portions of the habitat in a single year can help sustain populations. Monitoring programs aimed at quantifying populations and acceptable levels of mortality for species of interest may also help fire programs adapt to help wildlife populations thrive. This document provides information about the ability of birds, mammals, and herpetofauna to escape or survive fire. We also describe how fire induced changes to habitat can affect groups of animals and a suite of individual species.