Date of Award
Master of Science
Prescribed burning is a commonly used wildlife management tool. While most of the available data have evaluated short term effects of fire on wildlife (< 3 years), the present study addresses longer term effects (0 to 7 years). This enables a more thorough investigation of fire management affects on herpetofaunal communities at the landscape level. Ten sites, stratified by 0 to 7 years post-burn, were randomly selected on Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Indiana and monitored for 2 field seasons. Within each site, several trapping methods were utilized including a sampling array of drift fences, pitfall traps, single and double ended funnel traps, PVC pipes, and cover boards. Burning caused immediate stand level effects and changed vegetation characteristics, which affected the species assemblages of herpetofauna and small mammals. Data collected identified the spatial and temporal variables that explained the patterns of occurrence and abundance of herpetofaunal species and small mammal species, and how community vegetation characteristics such as structure, resource availability, and plant species assemblages, correlated with and affected those patterns. Burn regimes of 2-5 years were found to be optimal when managing herpetofauna and small mammals. Constrictor coluber priapus and Peromyscus leucopus were captured frequently in the study area and the effects of a properly timed prescribed burn could have positive effects on the numbers of generalist species. Akaike information criterion was used to determine the habitat variables that were most important in habitat selection of the herpetofaunal and small mammal classes and species. While this study was limited to one wildlife refuge, in the central hardwoods its findings may have ramifications for herpetofauna in other areas where prescribed fire can be used as a management tool.
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