Effects of historic wildfire and prescribed fire on site occupancy of bats in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA
Austin, Lauren V.
Ford, W. Mark
Powers, Karen E.
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Given the likelihood of regional extirpation of several once-common bat species in eastern North America from white-nose syndrome, it is critical that the impacts of forest management activities, such as prescribed fire, are known in order to minimize potentially additive negative effects on bat populations. Historic wildfires may offer a suitable surrogate to assess long-term burn impacts on bats for planning, implementing and assessing burn programs. To examine the effects of historic fire on bats, we sampled bat activities at 24 transect locations in burned and unburned forest stands in the central Appalachian Mountains of Shenandoah National Park (SNP), Virginia, USA. There was limited evidence of positive fire effects over time on hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereusBeauvois) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscusBeauvois) occupancy. Overall, there were few or mostly equivocal relationships of bat occupancy relative to burn conditions or time since fire in SNP across species using a false-positive occupancy approach. Our results suggest that fire does not strongly affect bat site occupancy short- or long-term in the central Appalachians.