Tom Wessels, MA
Department of Environmental Studies
I conducted a study within the Green mountain National Forest to investigate the effects of prescribed burning on the small mammal community in a northern hardwoods clearcut. A trapping grid and vegetation plots were set up within a burned and unburned clearcut. Trapping of small mammals and the collection of vegetation data was conducted over a period of 12 weeks from 27 July to 28 September 1994. Prescribed burning caused several vegetational and structural changes on the burned clearcut; there was a reduction in the number of tree saplings and seedlings, vigorous growth of Rubus was promoted, large logs and tree limbs were charred and some of the smaller slash (twigs and branches) was removed by the fire. Eight species of small mammals were captured on the burned clearcut and five species were captured on the unburned clearcut. Red-backed voles (Clethrionomys gapperi), short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda) and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) were the most numerous species on both sites. The number of red-backed voles were significantly lower on the burned clearcut. A number of factors may be responsible for this decline, including a reduction in the availability of food and decaying logs, a higher energetic cost of foraging, and an increase in predation risk.