Wildfire and Wildlife

PhD student Marie Tosa set up her study on mammalian carnivores in the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. Camera traps revealed wildlife including bobcat and, Marie's favorite, the Western Spotted Skunk.

What wildlife lives in the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, and what do those animals do in a wildfire? Marie Tosa, a PhD graduate student at Oregon State University, conducted a camera trap study and scat study of mammalian carnivores in and around the Andrews Forest from 2017-2019. Marie’s surveys detected a diverse array of carnivores including cougars, black bears, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, gray foxes, mink, short-tailed and long-tailed weasels, striped skunks, and Marie’s favorite, western spotted skunks. Many of these carnivores in the Oregon Cascades have large home ranges and are territorial, so they exist at low densities. The direct impacts of wildfire on mammalian carnivores are not well understood, but wildlife in this area are likely resilient and adapted to wildfires that burn at low and mixed severities. Large carnivores can typically escape fires by moving out of the fire footprint and smaller carnivores can find fire refugia, escape to underground burrows, or climb high into the canopy.

First posted September 14, 2023