Foraging habitat selection by California spotted owls after fire



Forest fire is one of the most important ecological disturbances affecting habitat of the declining California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) population in southern California. We analyzed foraging location data collected 3 and 4 years post-fire, from 8 radio-tagged California spotted owls whose home ranges included forest burned in the 5,176-ha Slide Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains, California, USA. We analyzed foraging habitat selection with sensitivity analysis using 3 different spatial extents to define available resource area: utilization distribution, minimum convex polygon, and capture radius. At all 3 extents of available habitat these spotted owls selected foraging sites close to their territory centers and riparian areas. Resource selection functions indicated burned forests were generally used in proportion to their availability, with the exception of significant selection for moderate-severity burned forests farther from territory centers at the largest available habitat extent (capture radius). Riparian habitats should be preserved for California spotted owls in southern California, and forests burned by high-severity fire should be considered potentially suitable foraging habitat. We suggest researchers perform habitat selection analyses at multiple spatial extents of availability and describe the sensitivity of their results. © 2016 The Wildlife Society.