After decades of suppression, fire has returned to many forested areas of the western United States. Understanding responses of wildlife species to fire is essential to native species conservation because contemporary fires may not have the same effects as historical fires. Recent fires in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona provided an opportunity to investigate effects of fire heterogeneity on habitat selection of a native wildlife species. We used radiotelemetry to determine home ranges of Mexican fox squirrels (Sciurus nayaritensis chiricahuae) within fire-influenced forests. We then applied resource-utilisation functions to evaluate associations of use intensity within home ranges to heterogeneity of burn severity at two spatial scales. Squirrels used areas with moderate levels of burn heterogeneity at large scale more than areas of low or high heterogeneity. Squirrels used small (<0.5ha) or narrow (<120m) severely burnt patches, but incorporated only edges of large patches into home ranges. Use of burnt forests by Mexican fox squirrels demonstrates the complexities of fire's effects on wildlife. Our results contribute to an understanding of the role and effect of fire in forest ecosystems and implications for wildlife conservation.
- Chiricahua fox squirrel
- Sciurus nayaritensis chiricahuae
- native wildlife
- prescription burn
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