Rodney B. Siegel; Institute for Bird Populations; P.O. Box 1346, Point Reyes Station, CA, 94956; (415) 663-1436;; Morgan W. Tingley, Joanna X. Wu, Sarah L. Stock, Joseph R. Medley, Ryan S. Kalinowski, Angeles Casas, Marcie Lima-Baumback, Adam C. Rich, Stephanie A. Eyes
Throughout western North America, longer, hotter fire seasons and dense fuels are yielding more frequent, larger, and higher-severity wildfires. Wildlife species associated with late-seral forest characteristics may be particularly vulnerable to habitat loss stemming from changing fire regimes. Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) is a California endangered species that typically nests in large snags in well-shaded forests adjacent to montane meadows. The 2013 Rim Fire burned nearly a quarter of all known or suspected Great Gray Owl territories in California at the time. We analyzed 13 years (2004 - 2016) of Great Gray Owl detection/non-detection data from 144 meadows inside and outside the Rim fire perimeter, in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Bayesian hierarchical modeling revealed that persistence of owls at meadows increased post-fire inside and outside the fire perimeter. These dynamics were unrelated to post-fire forest structure variables describing stands around the individual meadows, suggesting factors other than the fire were favorable to Great Gray Owls during the post-fire years. Great Gray Owl populations in the Sierra Nevada appear to have been largely resilient to effects of the Rim Fire during the three years after it burned.
Wildfire and Wildlife