MOOSE USE OF THE MOUNT MCALLISTER BURN IN NORTH-CENTRAL BRITISH COLUMBIA: INFLUENCE OF BURN SEVERITY AND SOIL MOISTURE
Keywords:Alces alces, burn, burn severity, forest fire, habitat, habitat management, moose, selection, soil moisture
The influence of recent wildfires in British Columbia (BC) on moose habitat and its use by moose are understudied, as are prescribed burning strategies that can be used to enhance moose habitat. Our objective was to investigate how 3 classes of fire severity (high, medium, low) interact with 3 soil moisture regimes (hydric, mesic, xeric) in determining how moose use post-fire habitat. In north-central BC, we studied moose use at 2 different spatial levels in the 5-year-old, 26,500 ha Mt. McAllister burn. At the site level, we estimated the density of fecal pellet groups and the percent of plants browsed by moose within plots of varying burn severity and soil moisture. At the landscape level, we investigated use from GPS locations of 7 radio-collared female moose at 3 orders of selection: we compared: 1) randomly distributed locations within the home range to randomly distributed locations throughout the entire burn (2nd order of selection); 2) use locations to randomly distributed potential locations within the home range (3rd order of selection); and daily use locations with potential movement locations (4th order of selection). At the site level, moose used areas of low/medium fire severity and hydric soil moisture. At the landscape level, moose preferred areas of medium fire severity at the daily order, and low/medium fire severity at both the home range and burn orders of selection. Our findings highlight that moose use of post-fire habitat varied by spatial scale and by order of selection and that researchers assessing use of burns by moose should consider multiple levels of investigation. Prescribed burning to enhance moose habitat should focus on low/medium fire severity at sites with mesic soil moisture.
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