More info for the terms: bog
, crown fire
, fire exclusion
, fire frequency
, fire management
, fire regime
, fire severity
, ground fire
, high-severity fire
, moderate-severity fire
, prescribed fire
, species richness
, stand-replacement fire
, stand-replacing fire
, surface fire
, woodland Boreal forest and aspen parklandBoreal forest:
According to a review, deer in boreal forests, including white-tailed deer, are usually associated with early-successional stages of burns. Fire stimulates rapid growth of deciduous shrubs, which increases the food supply for deer. As trees regenerate and their crowns close, the food supply is reduced, resulting in lower deer populations [352
]. Stand-replacing fire in boreal forest can greatly increase the production of woody browse for moose [248
] and likely for white-tailed deer. Telfer [407
] considered boreal forest stands 10 to 25 years after disturbance the most favorable summer habitat for white-tailed deer. The forage benefits of burning to moose, and possibly white-tailed deer, may peak 20 to 25 years after stand-replacing fire and last less than 50 years [248
]. (See the FEIS review of moose
for more information on fire effects on browse in boreal forests.) However, stand-replacing fires reduce cover and lichens that white-tailed deer may use as forage in winter [248
]. Lichens may be reduced for up to 50 years after fire in boreal forest. Lichens decline in old stands (≥200 years), indicating that infrequent fires of moderate to high severity may be important for maintaining lichens in the long term [248
]. Telfer [407
] considered preservation of wintering yards critical in the boreal forest, where climate tends to be marginal for survival of white-tailed deer, and suggested that diverse habitat—where a variety of age and composition classes occur interspersed in small stands—would be optimal for white-tailed deer.
White-tailed deer and moose occur together in boreal forests and may consume many of the same browse species, but fire may affect the 2 species differently. Postfire browse is likely to grow out of reach and become inaccessible to white-tailed deer before becoming inaccessible to moose, and forbs in postfire successional communities tend to be more important to white-tailed deer than to moose . On the Little Sioux Burn, resulting from a 14,600-acre (5,920 ha) May wildfire in balsam fir-paper birch forests of northeastern Minnesota, forbs were important to white-tailed deer, whereas browse comprised almost all of the moose diet during the 2nd postfire summer. White-tailed deer fed mostly on plants 12 to 30 inches (30-76 cm) tall, whereas moose fed mostly on plants 48 to 72 inches (122-183 cm) tall . Irwin  thought that the Little Sioux Burn would benefit moose longer than white-tailed deer because the flush of forbs lasted only 2 years after fire, whereas the abundant growth of shrubs and saplings was expected to persist much longer. White-tailed deer appeared less able to use large postfire successional shrubfields as late into the fall as moose because of deep snow and appeared to require substantially greater amounts of cover within their wintering habitats than did moose . For more information on white-tailed deer use of the Little Sioux Burn, see Great Lakes forests.
Historical increases in white-tailed deer populations in British Columbia were attributed to logging and extensive fires at low elevations in the mid-1930s that increased deciduous growth and thus white-tailed deer forage quantity and quality . In some areas fire exclusion has resulted in large stands of even-aged conifer forests that are generally unproductive for white-tailed deer. For example, the potential big game winter range in southeastern British Columbia was reduced by 58% during 40 years of fire exclusion (Langin and Demarchi 1977 cited in ). In areas with extensive, contiguous tracts of mature forest, small forest openings created by fire, logging, or other disturbances benefit white-tailed deer . However, large (several km²) clearings in quaking aspen or mixed forests are considered "disastrous" for white-tailed deer in this region .
Stand-replacing fire in boreal forest often increases the nutritional content of woody browse for up to 3 postfire growing seasons . White-tailed deer browse species may be more nutritious in early than late succession .
Aspen parkland: In western Canada the quaking aspen parklands and boreal forests with abundant quaking aspen provide "prime" white-tailed deer habitat [421,461]. A review stated that using prescribed fire in quaking aspen parklands may benefit white-tailed deer and mule deer by: 1) top-killing woody plants that can sprout after fire, 2) providing a seedbed for establishment of forage species, and 3) increasing the nutrient level and digestibility of browse and herbs the first 2 years after burning . Fire reduces the spread of quaking aspen and common snowberry into grasslands, which may be detrimental to white-tailed deer, but it allows quaking aspen to expand into conifer forests, which is likely beneficial . For more information about white-tailed deer use of aspen communities, see Great Lakes forests.
Pacific Northwest Southwest Southwest grasslands
In presettlement times, fires set by American Indians maintained many of the oak woodlands preferred by Columbian white-tailed deer. Fire exclusion and agricultural and residential development during the 1900s reduced available habitats [380,410]. Some evidence indicates that fire in oak woodlands may maintain palatable forage for Columbian white-tailed deer .
Fires may improve the palatability of plants to white-tailed deer in southwestern grasslands. Old growth of tobosa
(Pleuraphis mutica), big sacaton
(Sporobolus wrightii), and Johnson grass
(Sorghum halepense) is relatively coarse and unpalatable to white-tailed deer, mule deer, and other ungulates, but their postfire new growth is succulent and readily eaten [438
]. For more information, see FEIS reviews of species of interest.
White-tailed deer are infrequent visitors to desert grasslands but may use adjacent wooded areas . Fires at the grassland-woodland ecotone may remove woody vegetation without increasing ground cover , which may be detrimental to white-tailed deer.
Succulents: Fires may improve the palatability of succulents. Fires burn off the spines from cacti (cholla (Cylindropuntia spp.), pricklypear (Opuntia spp.), and barrel cactus (Ferocactus spp.)), making cacti more palatable and/or available as forage [145,226,248,256]. In grazed southwestern shrubsteppe near Tucson, Arizona, deer were attracted "almost immediately" to an area that was burned under prescription in November, partly because of the attractiveness of pricklypear. Deer and other animals consumed nearly all pricklypears from which spines were burned "within a few weeks" . In thorn scrub in the Texas savanna, white-tailed deer ate the scorched pads of Engelmann's pricklypear (O. engelmannii) soon after a fire that removed the thorns .
Mesquite: Mesquite (Prosopis spp.) shrublands are an important habitat for white-tailed deer in the Southwest, and fires that reduce large areas of mesquite may reduce fruit and browse production and cover. However, mosaic fires in dense mesquite stands may increase white-tailed deer forage .
Arizona chaparral: White-tailed deer and mule deer are common in Arizona chaparral [158,365]. Because most shrubs dominant in this habitat sprout and/or germinate from seeds soon after fire, fire in this habitat may increase forage [51,158]. Forbs and grasses develop rapidly after fire in Arizona chaparral and are generally abundant for 3 or 4 postfire years, followed by an abrupt drop to prefire levels in 2 to 3 more years, with forbs dropping out more rapidly than grasses. The decrease in herbs is associated with an increase in shrubs. Shrubs generally recover rapidly and dominate the site in about 5 years, regaining prefire values approximately 11 years after fire . In Arizona chaparral in the Mingus Mountain area, forb production peaked at about 281 pounds/acre in the 3rd postfire growing season after an 18,000-acre (7,300 ha) June wildfire, while grasses peaked at 213 pounds/acre in the 5th postfire growing season. Shrub cover and biomass were still increasing 6 years after the fire, when the study ended . On the Three Bar Wildlife Area, Arizona, forb and grass production was about 217 to 325 pounds/acre in the 5th and 6th postfire growing seasons and 109 to 110 pounds/acre in the 7th and 10th postfire growing seasons . In Arizona chaparral that was seeded with nonnative weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula) following a severe prescribed fire, shrub growth in the burned area was fastest the first 2 years after fire and by postfire year 5, shrub density was equal to that on the unburned control .
Burning may increase the nutritional content of mule deer browse, and likely white-tailed deer browse, in Arizona chaparral. Protein content of mule deer browse in recently burned areas in 3 regions of Arizona was generally higher than that in unburned areas but declined over time. Protein content of plants on a 9-month-old and a 3-year-old burned site was similar to that on adjacent, unburned sites, indicating that the effects of burning on plant nutritive quality were short lived. Browse use by mule deer was much greater on burned than unburned sites . See the FEIS review of mule deer for more information.
Gambel oak: Gambel oak provides shelter, forage, and mast for white-tailed deer and other wildlife [65,112]. In the northern portion of Gambel oak range, mature Gambel oak stands often have little forage within reach of deer, whereas young stands of Gambel oak may be "nearly impenetrable" to deer . Gambel oak sprouts after fire, and fire in Gambel oak communities may result in abundant, succulent browse for mule deer [208,210] and likely white-tailed deer. On the Uinta National Forest, Utah, examination of Gambel oak stands that had been burned 3 and 15 years prior to the study indicated that burned stands recovered to unburned control heights in 6 to 35 years, with stands at low elevations recovering faster than stands at high elevations (r=0.99, P<0.01) . See the FEIS reviews of Gambel oak and mule deer for more information.
Madrean encinal oak and Madrean oak-conifer: White-tailed deer may be attracted to burned Madrean oak-conifer communities because of abundant browse there. In a Mexican pinyon-oak woodland in southeastern Arizona, white-tailed deer deposited 7.2 times more fecal pellets in summer and fall in burned than in unburned stands 6.5 years after a wildfire. The fire was "intense" and burned 18,000 acres (7,285 ha) in the Whetstone Mountains in June. White-tailed deer were apparently attracted to the relatively more abundant browse in burned areas. Browsing was 2.5 times greater on a burned stand—where browse cover was 20 times greater—than on unburned stands . In contrast, white-tailed deer fecal counts were similar before and 1 year after prescribed fires in encinal oak savannas of the Southwestern Borderlands of Arizona and New Mexico . Warm-season (May) and cool-season (November-April) prescribed fires were conducted in 12 watersheds (range: 20-60 acres (8-24 ha) for a total of 451 acres (183 ha)) on the eastern side of the Peloncillo Mountains in southwestern New Mexico . Fecal pellet counts  and browse utilization  were similar among burned sites. The authors stated that the lack of a difference between burned and unburned areas was "not surprising given that all fires were of low severity" and the fact that the forest overstory structure and production of herbs and shrubs were similar before and after the fires .
In burned Madrean oak-conifer communities, white-tailed deer may concentrate their use near water. For example, in Mexican pinyon-oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona, white-tailed deer pellet groups accumulated twice as fast on an area burned by a severe June wildfire that was near (980 feet (300 m)) permanent water than on a burned area that was far (3,940 feet (1,200 m)) from permanent water .
Pinyon and juniper: See South-central US woodlands.
Ponderosa pine: Fire in ponderosa pine stands may benefit white-tailed deer by increasing forage nutritional quality [363,365]. Fire generally increases nutrient availability and concentrations in ponderosa pine forests for at least the 1st postfire growing season . A study in Arizona ponderosa pine found that in the 1st growing season after fire, crude protein, phosphorus, and in vitro digestible dry matter were higher in ungulate forage from areas burned in a severe May wildfire than in adjacent unburned controls. Increases in phosphorus and digestible dry matter lasted to the 2nd postfire year, but increases in protein did not. By the end of the 2nd growing season, however, there were no differences in nutritional content of ungulate forage between burned and unburned areas .
White-tailed deer use of ponderosa pine stands may increase after fire in response to increased forage production and edge. Deer use of a ponderosa pine forest near Flagstaff, Arizona, that had been burned in a high-severity May wildfire increased for the first 2 years after fire. Use became "inconsistent" during the 3rd postfire year, possibly due to reinstated cattle grazing on the burned area . In a recently logged ponderosa pine forest on the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, that burned in a May wildfire, deer pellet densities were higher in a moderate-severity burned area during postfire summers 1 to 3 than in an unburned control. However, pellet group densities were higher in the control than in a high-severity burned area during postfire summers 1 and 2. During postfire summer 3, pellet group densities were higher in the high-severity burned area than in the control (Table 1). The result was attributed to the production of palatable herbaceous species on burned areas. Herbaceous plant production was similar on all sites during the 1st postfire summer (range: 452-582 pounds/acre). During the 3rd postfire summer, however, production averaged 1,651 pounds/acre on the high-severity burned area, 1,275 pounds/acre on the moderate-severity burned area, and only 559 pounds/acre on the unburned control .
Table 1. Mean deer pellet groups/acre in a logged and burned ponderosa pine forest on the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, 1 to 3 summers after wildfire [54
] Summers since fire Moderate-severity fire High-severity fire Unburned control 1 1,001 257 672 2 398 191 267 3 363 262 116
Although total biomass of grasses and forbs often increases in ponderosa pine forest after fire, the quantity of useable deer forage may actually be less on burned areas if species composition shifts to relatively unpalatable species . Prescribed understory burning in ponderosa pine stands near Flagstaff, Arizona, failed to improve herbaceous forage production for deer. Although herbaceous plant production increased dramatically during the 1st postfire year, nonnative common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), an unpalatable species, dominated the understory . For more information about white-tailed deer use of ponderosa pine habitats, see Black Hills ponderosa pine. See also FEIS reviews of Arizona pine and interior ponderosa pine.
Lyon  provided a generalized description of white-tailed deer and mule deer response to postfire succession in forests in the northern Rocky Mountains: Immediately following a severe fire, the landscape may appear barren and provide little forage for deer. As early as the 1st growing season after fire, some woody seedlings may appear, and plants not killed by fire may sprout. In the first few postfire years, forbs and grasses dominate the area, and shrub cover increases. As shrub cover increases, forbs and grasses decrease. If the shrubs are palatable to deer, they can provide abundant forage. Shrub dominance may continue for 10 to 100 years, but shrubs are eventually displaced by trees. In mature forests, understory vegetation is typically sparse and provides little forage for deer . Plant succession on large, severely burned areas may be slow compared with that on small burns because of low plant survival in burned areas and remoteness of seed sources [246,290]. Reviews stated that the positive effects of fire on deer forage generally last <30 years [248,319], although white-tailed deer use burns of a variety of ages. In grand fir and western redcedar forests in Idaho, trees established and shrubs grew out of reach of white-tailed deer about 25 years after fire. Although young burns (<25 years old) had the greatest browse cover among 2- to >150-year-old burned areas (both wild and prescribed fires), white-tailed pellet group counts were highest on >60-year-old burns with high tree and shrub cover .
White-tailed deer used postfire shrubfields only rarely in Glacier National Park, appearing to prefer forested habitats . In enclosures in the Hatter Creek drainage in northern Idaho, white-tailed deer pellet group counts were significantly higher on burned than adjacent unburned sites (PTable 2). The enclosures were within a Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus) winter rangeland that had been spring- or fall-burned under prescription 6 to 12 months prior. Before the prescribed fires, no "recent" fires had been recorded .
Table 2. White-tailed deer pellet group densities 6 and 12 months after spring and fall prescribed fires in Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark habitat in northern Idaho [15
] Time since fire Pellet groups/acre Burned area Unburned control 6 months after a spring prescribed fire* 345 65 12 months after a fall prescribed fire* 438 100 *Sites sampled in October. Sites were not cleared of pellets prior to sampling.
Snow depth affects white-tailed deer use of postfire successional communities. In Idaho, white-tailed deer foraged primarily in unburned habitats because of deep snow. In the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the Snake Creek and Fritz Creek mixed-severity, August wildfires burned 2,700 acres (1,100 ha) of white-tailed deer and mule deer winter rangelands. Based on proportion of use versus availability during the 3rd postfire winter, which was mild, white-tailed deer preferred unburned Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark habitat from January to March, except in February. Then, they preferred unburned bluebunch wheatgrass/bluegrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata/Poa spp.) habitat, which was the only habitat free of snow at that time. During the other winter months, snow was shallower in the Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark and other forested habitats than in the bluebunch wheatgrass/bluegrass habitat. White-tailed deer used unburned ponderosa pine/bluebunch wheatgrass and burned Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark habitats in proportion to their availability. Use of these habitats might have been due to their close proximity to the unburned Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark habitat. White-tailed deer preferred sites that had the shortest average distance to cover. The average distance to cover in unburned Douglas-fir/ninebark habitat was only 5 feet (1.5 m) .
Fire that removes too much snow-interception and hiding cover may be detrimental to white-tailed deer in areas with deep snow. On the North Fork of the Flathead River in Montana, white-tailed deer yard during deep snow periods. The winter after the 1910 wildfire that consumed >50% of the vegetation in the North Fork Yard, 70% of the white-tailed deer died of starvation . The winter and spring after the August Moose Creek Fire, deer pellet group counts were "negligible". In summer, pellet group counts were substantially reduced compared with prefire counts. Prefire cover in and adjacent to the burned area was limited due to previous logging and the natural sparseness of the forest. The fire removed much of the remaining cover, and only one "sizeable" patch of cover remained. The author noted that despite road closures, hunting pressure on deer using the burn during the fall immediately after the fire was high. The fire was of mixed severity, in a mosaic of curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius)/bluebunch wheatgrass, bluebunch wheatgrass-needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), spiny grease bush (Glossopetalon spinescens), mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. vaseyana), ponderosa pine, and Douglas-fir communities on the Salmon National Forest, Idaho .
Although fire in an area with limited cover may be detrimental, small burns in areas of abundant cover may benefit white-tailed deer by increasing understory forage . Peek  stated that when mature forests are burned or cut, white-tailed deer may shift to adjacent areas during the severest times of winter; otherwise, they prefer the seral growth on the burned or cut areas, which is likely to provide excellent forage.
Fire in Rocky Mountain forests may increase forage quantity, quality, and palatability. Pengelly  showed that burning of slash yielded an initial decrease and later a large increase in the amount of palatable big game forage in Douglas-fir and grand fir habitats in northern Idaho. Although the ratio of good:poor browse 1 year after wildfire in logged grand fir stands was similar to unburned controls, species composition was very different . This suggested diet quality for white-tailed deer might be improved by increasing species richness across the landscape. In western redcedar forests in northern Idaho, shrub biomass production was nearly 60 times higher on a 30-year-old burn than on a 100-year-old stand (Table 3) . In the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Idaho, following the Snake Creek and Fritz Creek mixed-severity wildfires in August, relatively unpalatable species such as mallow ninebark were eaten more frequently on burned sites than on unburned sites, suggesting that burning increased their palatability . In Hatter Creek drainage in northern Idaho, 6 to 12 months after spring and fall prescribed fires on winter rangelands in Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark habitat, plant species such as thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), mallow ninebark, oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), Lewis' mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii), and western bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), which are normally avoided by white-tailed deer, were readily eaten during the 1st postfire growing season . Gordon  speculated that slashing (complete overstory removal) and early-spring (prior to plant growth) prescribed fire on 40 acres (16 ha) of winter rangelands in the Absaroka Range in Montana was beneficial to white-tailed deer because it increased the availability of quaking aspen browse. The rangelands were comprised of mature quaking aspen-Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forest, Douglas-fir/mallow ninebark forest, and hawthorn shrublands. Two years after the fire, density of quaking aspen and willows had increased due to sprouting. Prior to treatment, quaking aspen was too tall for white-tailed deer and moose to reach; after treatment, it was low and could be utilized . For more information on white-tailed deer use of aspen forests, see Great Lakes forests.
Table 3. Shrub biomass production in different-aged forests within the western redcedar-western hemlock ecosystem of northern Idaho [176
] Site description Mean biomass production
(kg/ha) 30-year-old burn in western redcedar/Oregon boxwood (Paxistima myrsinites) habitat 19,475 100-year-old undisturbed western redcedar-western hemlock habitat 331
Postlogging site preparation practices in Rocky Mountain forests often include prescribed fire. Burning slash often favors the establishment of seral shrubs, many of which are preferred white-tailed deer browse species. Limited evidence suggested that removal of slash by broadcast burning rather than pile burning resulted in "heavier initial stands of preferred white-tailed deer forage" . Northern Great Plains Northern Great Plains grasslands
In Northern Great Plains grasslands white-tailed deer often use recently burned areas more than unburned areas. For example, the number of white-tailed deer fawns was greater on burned than unburned grasslands the 2nd summer following a late May prescribed fire in east-central North Dakota on the Woodworth Study Area in the midgrass prairie vegetation zone. No fawns were found on an unburned 124-acre (50 ha) area, compared to 4 fawns each during the 2nd growing season on nearby burned areas of 135 acres (55 ha) and 121 acres (49 ha) [195
]. At the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the Nebraska Sandhills, white-tailed deer were found closer to burned areas than to random points. Six areas, from 20 to 700 acres (8-283 ha), were burned under prescription in April. All of the burns were in native sandreed (Calamovilfa spp.)-bluestem grasslands. Three burns were in grasslands that were either subirrigated or seasonally flooded. Although concealment cover was reduced in May and June following the fire, it returned to prefire levels by July. Results indicated that prescribed burning did not negatively affect white-tailed deer [223
]. In contrast, in another study in Nebraska Sandhills prairie, white-tailed deer used burned areas about 8% of the time during the year of the fire and about 5% the following year, suggesting that use declined. However, no data on control or prefire use were provided [462
Spring prescribed burning at the ecotone of prairie and quaking aspen parkland may reduce woody plant establishment in prairie habitat , which may be detrimental to white-tailed deer by removing cover. Spring burning may benefit white-tailed deer, however, by "rejuvenating" certain prairie species such as purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) and native warm-season grasses such as big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) .
Fire often increases the percentage of protein and minerals in prairie grasses and shrubs important to white-tailed deer, although effects vary with season of burning . However, repeated annual prescribed fires in April had no effect on white-tailed deer browsing rates of Jersey tea (Ceanothus herbaceus) in tallgrass prairie at the Konza Prairie Research Natural Area, Kansas. The authors concluded that because white-tailed deer browse Jersey tea most in fall and winter, any differences in plant quality on burned areas might have been diminished by the time of use . The effects of fire on grassland nutrients may interact with the effects of grazing. Cattle-grazed patches in a tallgrass prairie in eastern Kansas contained less biomass than ungrazed patches and therefore lost less nitrogen to volatilization by fire. The authors suggested that grazing may control whether burning results in net increases or decreases in nitrogen on a site. Grazing also increases heterogeneity in grasslands, contributing to patchy fuels and thus variation in fire behavior and severity. Patches that are intensely grazed fail to burn as a result of insufficient fuel, while accumulated fuels in ungrazed patches increase fire severity .
Figure 3. White-tailed deer feeding in native prairie after the Headquarters West prescribed fire in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Charlie Barker, Wind Cave National Park.
Northern Great Plains woodlands and forests
Black Hills ponderosa pine: Wintering white-tailed deer may avoid recently burned ponderosa pine habitats. For example, in ponderosa pine forests in the southern Black Hills, male and female white-tailed deer selected unburned habitat and avoided burned areas the 1st winter after the 2000 Jasper Fire, a 83,500-acre (334,800 ha), mixed-severity August through September wildfire. The fire created a mosaic of burned and unburned patches that increased diversity and quality of forage considered favorable to white-tailed deer. However, in winter, males and females selected unburned ponderosa pine habitats with >40% canopy cover and a grass-forb understory and avoided burned ponderosa pine and ponderosa pine/curlleaf mountain-mahogany/Rocky Mountain juniper habitats. When winter locations of female white-tailed deer in burned and unburned areas were pooled, the author found most foraging locations were in unburned areas (80.8%), 8.6% were in severely surface-burned areas, 7.5% were in lightly burned areas, and 3.2% were in areas burned in a crown fire. Most bedding locations were also in unburned areas (86.5%), whereas only 6.2% were in severely surface-burned areas, 4.5% were in lightly burned areas, and 2.8% were burned in a crown fire. He suggested that selection for unburned habitat was related to the relative lack of cover and forage in burned areas compared with unburned areas. He stated that because the fire occurred at the end of the growing season and white-tailed deer were monitored only during the 1st winter and spring after the fire, "it was likely too soon for any beneficial effects on available habitats to be realized" .
In the short term, fire may reduce fawning habitat in Black Hills ponderosa pine forests. High fawn mortality rates during the 1st postfire summer after the 2000 Jasper Fire were attributed to the loss of fawning habitat (Schmitz personal communication cited in ).
Fire in Black Hills ponderosa pine habitats may increase nutritional quality of white-tailed deer forage, which may result in better white-tailed deer body condition in the first few postfire years. Following the 2000 Jasper Fire, nitrogen isotopes in the livers of white-tailed deer were higher on burned than unburned habitat during the 2nd and 3rd postfire winters and summers, suggesting that white-tailed deer consumed more nutritious forage on burned habitat during both seasons .
Although lack of winter and fawning cover during the 1st postfire year may be detrimental to white-tailed deer, fire may be beneficial in the long term. In the Black Hills, male and female white-tailed deer selected burned habitats on winter rangelands but not summer rangelands, a result attributed to the scarcity of burned habitats on summer rangelands .
Lack of fire in ponderosa pine habitats for long periods may be detrimental to white-tailed deer. Several researchers hypothesized that lack of fire and resultant maturing and closing-in of ponderosa pine communities resulted in white-tailed deer population declines in the Black Hills [90,370].
Jack pine: After a May wildfire in a jack pine plantation on the Nebraska National Forest, white-tailed deer used unburned areas 80% of the time and rarely used burned areas . For more information about white-tailed deer use of jack pine forests, see Great Lakes forests.
Riparian areas: In many parts of the Great Plains, white-tailed deer's distribution is limited by a lack of cover, so populations are restricted to riparian areas, wooded draws, and others areas in and adjacent to hardwood cover [279,381,430]. Historically, white-tailed deer occurred in riparian bottomlands in the Great Plains, which burned less frequently than the surrounding landscape . Great LakesGreat Lakes grasslands
In Wisconsin, small marshes often provide the only winter cover available to white-tailed deer in agricultural landscapes; thus, fire in these habitats in the fall and winter could be detrimental in the short term [436
Great Lakes forests
Laurentian forest: In the Laurentian mixed-forest region of the Great Lakes and Northeast—a transitional zone between boreal and deciduous forests—quaking aspen and paper birch are 2 of the most important white-tailed deer browse species. Quaking aspen forests in particular are considered "the region's leading white-tailed deer-producing forest type" (Byelich and others 1972 cited in ). Both quaking aspen and paper birch usually sprout after fire. According to reviews, paper birch reaches peak browse production 10 to 16 years after stand-replacing fire, whereas quaking aspen production may remain greater than that of unburned stands for >25 years [139,249]. Leaves of young quaking aspen and bigtooth aspen, especially those from sprouts <1 year old, are a preferred white-tailed deer food. Aspen forest understories often have abundant white-tailed deer forage species, including maple, birch, willow, serviceberry, hazelnut (Corylus spp.), cherry, honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), rose, bigleaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla), and strawberry (Fragaria spp.) [139,175,346].
The effects of prescribed fire on quaking aspen stands and fire's resulting effect on white-tailed deer partly depends upon the amount of postfire sprouting. Young quaking aspen trees are more likely to sprout than old trees . See the FEIS review of quaking aspen for more detailed information. Sprout densities typically peak in the 1st and 2nd postfire years, followed by a gradual decline . White-tailed deer browse is typically abundant for 5 to 8 years following fire, after which the leafy crowns typically grow out of reach. Deer and other browsing animals may concentrate in small burned areas or clearcuts to the point where quaking aspen browse is eliminated [312,365] (see Effects of herbivory on vegetation). Thinning quaking aspen stands, rather than burning or clearcutting, may promote herbaceous understory production rather than quaking aspen sprouting . Mature quaking aspen stands may provide better cover for white-tailed deer and mule deer than clearcut stands . See the review by Timmermann  on managing quaking aspen for white-tailed deer, mule deer, and other ungulates.
Because fire in Laurentian forests may increase white-tailed deer forage, white-tailed deer use of burned stands often increases after fire. White-tailed deer were using the Little Sioux Burn, which resulted from a 14,600-acre (5,920 ha) May wildfire in logged and unlogged forests of jack pine, quaking aspen, and/or paper birch in northern Minnesota, the 1st month following the fire . Two years after the fire, white-tailed deer used burned quaking aspen-paper birch stands most frequently. These stands had the greatest biomass density following the fire, with abundant quaking aspen and bigtooth aspen sprouts. Burned stands of balsam fir-paper birch, where sprouts of white birch, pin cherry, and beaked hazelnut proliferated, were the 2nd most frequently used stands. White-tailed deer used stands that were logged prior to the fire more frequently than expected, based upon their availability, during all periods of the study except May and November. The study was conducted from April through November. Important herbaceous foods for white-tailed deer, such as grasses, white clover (Trifolium repens), Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), and fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), were most abundant in these areas. Results indicated that white-tailed deer selected burned areas because of increased forage availability . In Wisconsin, white-tailed deer summer track density was 2.4 times greater on roads in a burned area than on roads in an unburned control area. The burned area was "brush prairie savanna" with abundant sprouting oaks, while the unburned control was a northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis)-bur oak-jack pine forest. The 20,000-acre (8,100 ha) Grantsburg-Webster Wildfire had occurred 8 years prior, in May. White-tailed deer appeared to be attracted to the burned area because of earlier spring growth and more available and palatable browse . On the Beltrami Island State Forest in northwestern Minnesota, a quaking aspen stand was burned under prescription in early May 4 times during 8 years (1968, 1971, 1973, and 1975). By the 4th fire, the stand had converted to an open shrubland of chokecherry, pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), willow, redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), and dense quaking aspen sprouts. White-tailed deer densities (according to pellet group counts) were declining on the burned area and on an unburned control area for 4 years prior to burning. The study area was first burned in 1968. That year, white-tailed deer densities continued to decline on the burn and the control. In 1969, however, density in the burned area increased to 8 white-tailed deer/km², while white-tailed deer density continued to decline in the control area, reaching a low of 0.8 white-tailed deer/km². White-tailed deer density in the burn peaked at 18 white-tailed/km² in 1972, 1 year after the 2nd burn, and then declined gradually to 5.0 white-tailed deer/km² in 1978, 3 years after the 4th burn. White-tailed deer density fluctuated in the unburned control area during the study but was always less than that on the burned area. The increase in white-tailed deer density after the 1st and 2nd fires was attributed to increased habitat quality, while the subsequent decrease was attributed to reduced winter habitat (i.e., increased openness, lack of conifer cover, and snow drifts) [31,32]. Four and 5 years after the 4th burn, densities fluctuated but averaged 8 white-tailed deer/km² in the burned area and 5 white-tailed deer/km² in the unburned control .
Increased forage following fire may result in increased white-tailed deer populations. In the Kenora District of western Ontario, fires burned an average of 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) annually in the 1930s but only 1,000 acres (400 ha) annually in the 1940s. According to Cringan , a white-tailed deer population "erupted" following the fires of the 1930s because the fires resulted in large areas of "choice" feeding habitat, and unburned conifer swamps scattered throughout the burns provided shelter. The population reached peak densities between 1945 and 1950, then "crashed" as forests succeeded . Similarly, around 1900, the white-tailed deer population in Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota was about 220 individuals. The population was low because of uncontrolled hunting in the area. From 1910 to 1950, it increased to approximately 3,500 individuals due to logging and fires that opened the forest and resulted in shrub-herb communities and pine (eastern white, red, and jack pine), quaking aspen, and/or paper birch communities. Populations of other ungulates and most carnivores decreased during this time. From 1951 to 1985, the white-tailed deer population declined, but white-tailed deer remained "abundant" or "common". By 1975, the population had declined to 2,600 individuals because of forest succession. By 1983 to 1985, it had declined to approximately 800 individuals because of the combination of succession, increased gray wolf predation, and periodic severe winters .
White-tailed deer populations may not increase after fire if cover is insufficient. The 1976 Seney National Wildlife Refuge wildfire increased edge habitats favorable to white-tailed deer. The fire lasted from late July to late September, burning over 64,000 acres (26,000 ha) of mixed hardwood-conifer forest, conifer forest, tamarack-red maple bog, and shrubby bog habitats. The fire "burned patchily and with varying degrees of intensity". However, the refuge had little winter habitat. White-tailed deer populations showed little change during the first 3 postfire years, after which the study ended . White-tailed deer used the Little Sioux Fire area during the 1st and 2nd postfire summers but used the periphery of the burn (i.e., 0.25 mile (0.4 km) from the burn perimeter) and unburned forest during the 1st and 2nd postfire winters (P<0.10). This shift to dense cover in fall and winter was attributed to deep snow in the burned area, which had little forest cover to intercept snow .
Increases in some nutrients have been reported after fire in Laurentian Forest, which presumably would benefit white-tailed deer. Levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in 18 trees, shrubs, and herbs generally increased during the first 5 years after the Little Sioux Fire and generally exceeded levels on unburned sites. Phosphorus levels on burned sites also exceeded those on unburned sites for the 2nd and 3rd postfire years, and then generally decreased. Nitrogen levels were consistently higher on burned than unburned sites but declined during the first 5 growing seasons after fire . In a 30-year-old quaking aspen stand in southern Ontario, levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in quaking aspen leaves were 24% to 42% higher the 1st growing season after "light" April and May surface fires than in an unburned area. Accumulation of nutrients in the trunk, lateral branches, and twigs was generally not different between burned and unburned areas, although the level of potassium in twigs was lower in burned than unburned stands .
For information on white-tailed deer use of oak and hickory forests of the southern Great Lakes region, see Southern Appalachians. For information on white-tailed deer use of northern whitecedar, balsam fir, spruce, and other conifer forests, see Northeast forests. NortheastNortheast grasslandsOld fields:
White-tailed deer commonly use old fields and other forest openings in the Northeast [79
], and fire in these fields may increase their use. In old fields on the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont, and in openings maintained along transmission lines in Rochester, New Hampshire, burning at different seasons produced different vegetation responses. White-tailed deer grazed mostly on herbs in burned and unburned openings, and browse was "only taken incidentally or casually". Their use of all burned areas increased during the 1st postfire growing season. Mid-April prescribed fires resulted in the greatest increase in flowering forbs, abundant fruits and sprouts, and a moderate increase in grasses compared with unburned controls. Late May and early June prescribed fires reduced young (<1.0 inch (2.5 cm) diameter and <3.3 feet (1.5 m) tall) trees the most and resulted in the greatest increase in grasses. Fires in all months (April, May, June, August, and October) reduced the frequency of ferns, mosses, shrubs, and bare ground compared with unburned controls. Browse use indicated that white-tailed deer preferred sprouts on May and June burns. Browse preferences of white-tailed deer changed between the 1st and 2nd growing season after burning on these sites. They browsed black cherry, chokecherry, pin cherry, and sugar maple—which are generally not preferred browse—more the 1st postfire growing season than the 2nd postfire growing season [304
], suggesting that palatability may have declined. The authors recommended burning every 5 years to maintain openings and prevent tree encroachment. They also recommended creating new openings while letting other openings succeed to paper birch, quaking aspen, and eastern white pine [304
Northeast shrublands Northeast woodlandsPine Barrens:
Hawthorn: Hawthorn is considered an important food for white-tailed deer (see Diet). In McKean County, Pennsylvania, an April, low-severity prescribed fire resulted in 60% top-kill of hawthorn in a riparian zone with dense, 5- to 8-foot (1.5-2.4 m) tall hawthorn and a sparse understory. All top-killed hawthorns sprouted within 9 months of the fire. Based upon a single burn, the author recommended burning hawthorn for white-tailed deer forage and cover every 7 years . For more information on this study, see the Research Project Summary by Smith .
In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, fire may help maintain white-tailed deer browse in the understory, but burning too frequently may eliminate some important browse species such as bear oak [278
]. Shrub and herbaceous cover in New Jersey Pine Barrens was similar in unburned stand and stands where the understory was burned under prescription at 10- and 15-year intervals. As intervals between burns decreased from 5 years to 1 year, however, shrub cover decreased [48
]. Burning too frequently may also reduce or eliminate bear oak and other shrubs from the forest understory [278
]. Pitch pine seedlings and young sprouts on burned Pine Barrens may be heavily browsed by white-tailed deer in winter [235
]. For more information, see Effects of herbivory on vegetation.
Coastal communities: Severe fire may be detrimental to white-tailed deer in many northeastern coastal communities where coarse, sandy soils typically occur. In these areas, litter and humus layers are reduced by fire and nutrients are quickly leached away, often resulting in slow postfire regeneration consisting primarily of poor-quality white-tailed deer foods .
Hardwood forests: Many northeastern hardwood species sprout in the 1st growing season after fire, providing abundant forage for white-tailed deer. However, the benefits may be short term. In Montgomery County, Virginia, in 30- to 100-year-old yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)-white oak-northern red oak forests, a May prescribed fire resulted in 2.8 times as much browse the following September (38.9 pounds/acre) as on an unburned control (13.95 pounds/acre, P=0.001) . In oak-hickory-eastern white pine forest in southeastern New Hampshire, white-tailed deer browse use was greater on prescribed burned areas and on areas both thinned and burned under prescription than on untreated areas and those that were thinned only. In most cases, white-tailed deer browsed the treated areas more heavily in summer than winter (Table 4). Browse utilization was greatest in areas with the most open canopies. Because use was less on plots burned 2 growing seasons previously than on plots burned 1 growing season previously, the authors concluded that burning should be done in 1- to 2-year intervals . In a bear oak community in central Pennsylvania, white-tailed deer summer and winter use of bear oak after April prescribed surface fires was greatest on the most recently burned plots and tended to decrease with time since fire. For example, during one summer, browsing on bear oak amounted to 43% of shoots on plots burned the previous spring compared with 26% on plots burned 3 growing seasons previously and 23% on unburned control plots. During another summer, use of shoots on plots burned the previous spring was 57%, whereas use on plots burned 2 or more growing seasons previously and on control plots was ≤25%. Because the average height of bear oak browse was about 5 feet (1.5 m) the 4th growing season after fire, the authors suggested burning every 5 years to maximize white-tailed deer browse .
Table 4. Browse utilization by white-tailed deer on 8 forest plots on East Foss Farm, Durham, New Hampshire, for the summer of 1976 and winter of 1977 [323
] Treatment Growing seasons since fire Stems utilized in summer (%) Stems utilized in winter (%) Untreated control not applicable 1.4 1.4 Prescribed fire in spring of 1973 and 1975* 2 0.7 0 Thinned in 1973 and burned in spring of 1973 and 1975 2 2.9 2.7 Thinned in 1973 only not applicable 2.3 5.3 2 annual spring burns in 1975 and 1976** 1 25.5 4.5 Mixed hardwood stand clearcut in 1975 and slash burned in spring 1976** 1 23.1 13.5 Eastern white pine stand clearcut in 1975 and slash burned in spring 1976** 1 8.9 14.9 *Dense overstory and a closed canopy after treatments. **Open or no canopy after treatments.
Studies from the Northeast report increased nutrient content of white-tailed deer foods after fire. For example, nutrient contents of bear oak, blueberry, and huckleberry (Gaylussacia spp.) in a bear oak community in central Pennsylvania were examined following low-severity, April prescribed surface fires that top-killed all plants. These species comprised about 90% of the total woody forage available to white-tailed deer. For 4 years, levels of crude protein, calcium, and magnesium in composite samples of foliage and shoots were greater in burned plots than in unburned controls plots .
The effect of fire on nutritional quality of white-tailed deer browse may vary with fire severity. A study was conducted at the Patuxent Research Refuge, Maryland, to determine chemical composition and nutritive value of 4 species of plants commonly used as browse by white-tailed deer. The study followed a low-severity spring prescribed fire (1947) and a high-severity wildfire (1949). Data were collected the 1st and 2nd growing seasons after the prescribed fire and the 1st and 3rd growing seasons after the wildfire. Total solids, ash, ether extract, crude fiber and nitrogen-free extract contents of red maple, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), white oak, and common greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) during the 1st postfire growing season were similar between burned and unburned sites. Protein contents of common greenbrier, red maple, and flowering dogwood foliage were higher in the burned area the 1st postfire growing season after the prescribed fire than in the unburned controls, but no effects of burning were apparent in the 2nd postfire growing season. In contrast, protein contents of all 4 species were higher in the burned area the 1st growing season following the wildfire than in the unburned controls, and effects were still apparent in common greenbrier, red maple, and flowering dogwood at the end of the 3rd postfire growing season .
For information on quaking aspen forests and mixed forests in the Laurentian Forest zone, see Great Lakes forests. For information on oak and mixed-oak forests, see Southern Appalachians.
Conifer forests: Conifer forests are important for cover in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions. Mature northern whitecedar forests are the preferred forest type for yards in the Northeast and Great lakes regions because they provide cover as well as nutritious browse [94,279]. Atlantic white-cedar forests are also important . Many northern whitecedar and Atlantic white-cedar communities originated from seed sources after fire, but both species are susceptible to injury by fire and are easily killed. See FEIS reviews of northern whitecedar and Atlantic white-cedar for more information. Postfire growth of both species may be hindered by heavy white-tailed deer browsing [233,234] (see Effects of herbivory on vegetation). Mature spruce, eastern hemlock, and balsam fir forests are also used as yards in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions [94,279].
Mature forests provide important cover in winter, while young conifer forests may provide nutritious white-tailed deer forage. On the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Maine, digestible energy of white-tailed and moose forage available on 15- to 17-year-old plots in balsam fir forest burned in a wildfire was substantially lower than that on 3- to 4-year-old plots in balsam fir forest that were defoliated by eastern spruce budworm, logged, and then burned under prescription . South-central US South-central US grasslands
Burning of pastures in the south-central United States often increases white-tailed deer use. Within the same month of a prescribed winter fire in nonnative guineagrass (Urochloa maxima) pastures in Willacy County, Texas, white-tailed deer presence was greater in unburned pastures (19 white-tailed deer/3-mile transect) than burned pastures (5 white-tailed deer/3-mile transect, P=0.033). During the next 4 months, white-tailed deer presence in unburned pastures gradually decreased until just 2 white-tailed deer were observed on the transect. The opposite trend was observed in the burned pastures. White-tailed deer use decreased soon after burning, probably because of decreased food resources. One month after burning, white-tailed deer numbers gradually increased in burned areas and decreased in unburned areas, likely due to increased native plant species richness and nutritious regrowth of shrubs in the burned areas. By 4 months after fire, presence increased to 14 white-tailed deer/3-mile transect [330
South-central US shrublands
Fire's effects on forage and cover plants for white-tailed deer in arid and semiarid shrublands of the south-central United States depends on the species. For example, fire may kill nonsprouting species such as Ashe juniper, whereas shrubs such as honey mesquite may sprout soon after fire . Thus, fire may alter the composition of white-tailed deer forage, which may be beneficial or detrimental to white-tailed deer.
Conflicting results make it difficult to predict the effects of different seasons and frequencies of fire on composition of browse species after fire . Woody plant species composition was unaffected by prescribed burning in a honey mesquite-acacia savanna in the western South Texas Plains, regardless of season (dormant or growing) or frequency of burning (annually or biennial burns during 4 years) . In contrast, Ruthven and others  detected declines in abundance of several woody plants following winter and winter-summer prescribed fires in a honey mesquite-spiny hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana) woodland. Their study on the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area looked at sites that received 2 dormant-season (November-March) prescribed fires (winter burns); sites that received a combination of 1 dormant-season prescribed fire and 1 growing-season (August) prescribed fire (winter-summer burns); and unburned control sites. In the late spring and early summer (about 17 months after the last winter fire and about 22 months after the last summer fire), total woody plant cover and density were greatest on unburned controls (P<0.001 for both variables). Cover of honey mesquite, twisted acacia (Acacia schaffneri), Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), lotebush (Ziziphus obtusifolia), and Christmas cactus (Opuntia leptocaulis) was highest on unburned controls. Density of Berlandier wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri), lotebush, desert yaupon (Schaefferia cuneifolia), spiny hackberry, and Christmas cactus was highest on unburned controls. Because woody plants declined after fire, the authors suggested that burning was detrimental to white-tailed deer . A March prescribed fire in an Oklahoma Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) tallgrass prairie with encroaching shrubs appeared to be more severe than a July prescribed fire and thus appeared to be more detrimental to woody plants likely to be used by white-tailed deer. However, both March and July fires reduced woody species. Two woody species (smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) and common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)) had greater densities 12 to 16 months after March and July fires than before the fires, while the density of 9 species (poison-ivy (Toxicodendron spp.), roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), black willow (Salix nigra), green ash, winged elm (Ulmus alata), eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), black hickory (Carya texana), and post oak) was less after the fires than before. Responses of 2 woody species (Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) and flameleaf sumac (Rhus copallina)) depended upon season of burning . In honey mesquite-acacia chaparral in the Texas Gulf Prairies and Marshes region, a September prescribed fire damaged woody plants more than December fires did. Some sites were pretreated by shredding, chopping, scalping, root plowing, and/or raking and others were not . One year following a September prescribed fire in mesquite-acacia-bristlegrass (Setaria spp.) shrubland, average shrub cover on all burned plots (12%) was less than that on unburned controls (39%). Some plots were shredded, chopped, or scalped before burning. Frequency of occurrence of lotebush, Berlandier wolfberry, creeping mesquite (Prosopis reptans var. cinerascens), brasil (Condalia obovata), and Texas persimmon was significantly less on burned plots than controls (P<0.05 for all variables) .
Forb and grass production are influenced by season of burning. Some researchers reported greatest forb production following early winter fires. In honey mesquite-acacia chaparral in the Texas Gulf Prairies and Marshes region, plots burned under prescription in September had the most grass the following August, whereas December-burned plots had the most forbs. Some sites were pretreated before burning . At the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation Refuge in southern Texas, honey mesquite-mixed grass and bunchgrass-annual forb communities were burned under prescription in mid-December, immediately after the first frost. This resulted in the highest yield of forbs and lowest yield of grasses when compared with mid- and late-winter fires. Late-winter prescribed burns resulted in the lowest yield of forbs and highest yield of grasses. Twenty-two percent of all forb species increased in frequency on burned areas compared with controls, regardless of the timing of burning . Springer  concluded that fall burns seemed better suited for white-tailed deer production, noting that herbage production tended to increase more on fall-burned sites than spring-burned sites 1 and 2 years after prescribed fires in "thicketized" live oak savanna on the Texas Coastal Plain. Increased herbage production on fall-burned areas the 1st and 2nd postfire years was primarily due to increased forbs. See the South-central US subsection of Fire Management Considerations for recommendations concerning season of burning in the south-central United States.
Postfire precipitation may affect white-tailed deer use of burned areas. In honey mesquite-spiny hackberry savanna at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area, Texas, white-tailed deer crossings/km, an index of white-tailed deer movement into and out of treated clearings, did not differ between pretreatment levels and levels of either twice-aerated plots or plots that were aerated and burned under prescription. The authors suggested that the lack of a treatment effect was likely due to below-average rainfall and higher than average temperatures the summer following treatments that resulted in similarly poor plant growth and survival on all plots. Forage biomass, forage nutritional value, tannin content, and cover were similar between treatments. Thus, "there was no reason for white-tailed deer to exhibit preference for either treatment" . Following a March wildfire on the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area, white-tailed deer shifted their diet to accommodate changes in forage availability. The wildfire burned 67,000-acres (27,000 ha) and >90% of the 15,199-acre (6,151 ha) Chaparral Wildlife Management Area. The fire was moderate or high severity over 85% of the area, and "light" severity over 7%; 9% of the area was unburned. White-tailed deer could not move off of the area because of fencing. For 1, 2, and 3 months following the wildfire, female white-tailed deer were harvested in the burned area, and body condition, pregnancy status, and rumen contents were sampled. Despite drier than average conditions prior to the fire and reduced forage abundance immediately after the fire, white-tailed body condition measurements did not change during the first 3 postfire months. This suggested that individuals acquired sufficient nutrients to meet requirements. Fetal development rates also appeared normal. Soon after the fire, white-tailed deer ate Engelmann's pricklypear pads. They consumed emergent grasses and forbs as they became available. Later in spring, they used forbs and browse. About 2 to 3 months after the fire, they shifted to honey mesquite pods and fruits of Texas persimmon and Engelmann's pricklypear. White-tailed deer are "highly adaptable" to changes in habitat, and ample precipitation (4.5 inches (114 mm)) from late April to May probably allowed good postfire vegetation recovery. The authors speculated that had drought conditions persisted through the 1st postfire summer, the wildfire might have been detrimental to white-tailed deer body condition .
Increased forage quantity and quality on burned areas may improve white-tailed deer body condition and fawn production. The first year after burning 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of "thicketized" live oak in the Texas Coastal Plain, "large numbers" of white-tailed deer used the burned areas soon after growth began. Dressed carcass weights of male and female white-tailed deer 1 year after the fire were similar between burned and unburned areas, and there was no significant difference in either mean kidney fat or bone marrow fat content between animals harvested from burned and unburned areas. Thus, general nutritional condition of white-tailed deer was similar between burned and unburned areas. The only difference in body condition or growth attributable to burning was antler size. When antler sizes of 2- and 3-year-old white-tailed deer bucks were examined, antlers of 2-year-olds were longer and wider on burned than unburned areas during the 1st postfire year. Although nutritional condition was similar between burned and unburned areas, white-tailed deer fawn production on the burned area during the 1st postfire year appeared to be greater on the burned area (0.33 fawn/doe) than the unburned area (0.20 fawn/doe). Ovulation rates and fetal counts in utero, however, were not different between burned and unburned areas during the 1st postfire winter .
Fire in South-central United States shrublands may reduce important hiding cover. The 1st year after burning "thicketized" live oak savanna in the Texas Coastal Plain, cover was generally reduced compared to prefire levels, although the burn was patchy in some locations. "White-tailed deer in the burned areas seemed much more nervous and sensitive to disturbance by humans and flight would often take them 1.6 km to adequate unburned cover" . The authors speculated that reduced cover in burned areas may have made fawns more vulnerable to coyote and bobcat predation, noting an increase in the amount of coyote and bobcat scats with white-tailed deer fawn hair. The author suggested that care should be taken to not remove too much cover during prescribed fires .
The form of woody plants may be changed by burning. For example, on land that has never been disturbed, a large proportion of honey mesquite stems may occur as single-stemmed trees or as shrubs with few stems originating at ground level. Postfire sprouting may result in multiple-stemmed shrubby growth by the end of the 1st growing season. The growth form is usually maintained for the life of the plant. Thus, hiding cover on burned areas may be greater 18 to 24 months after fire than before fire .
South-central US woodlands
Pinyon-oak-juniper: White-tailed deer use of burned areas may increase in burned pinyon-oak-juniper woodlands soon after fire. In the Chisos Mountains of southwestern Texas in Mexican pinyon-oak-juniper woodland, Mexican pinyon-juniper grassland, oak shrubland, and finestem needlegrass (Nassella tenuissima) meadows, a March (1980), mixed-severity wildfire occurred after 7 months of drought. White-tailed deer pellet group densities were lowest on the burn soon after the fire, then peaked in March, 12 months after the fire, likely due to increased forage availability and palatability. Soon after the fire, white-tailed deer fed on burned cacti and fallen trees. When rainfall increased in the summer, they fed on herbs. Twenty months after the fire, pellet group densities declined to about 25% of the postfire maximum as forage production "stabilized". On average, pellet group densities 1 to 2 years after the fire were over twice that 6 to 8 years before the fire (P=0.02) . For information on white-tailed deer use of Mexican pinyon-oak woodlands, see Southwest woodlands.
Forbs may be reduced in mechanically treated and burned Ashe juniper communities immediately after treatment. This reduction is usually followed by increased forb production as warm-season forbs germinate . On the YO Ranch in Kerr County, Texas, forb biomass was 5 to 6 times greater in spring and summer 22 months after double-chaining and slash pile burning that removed 80% of trees than on adjacent untreated control stands. The study was conducted during a drought year when livestock grazing was deferred, in Ashe juniper-Texas live oak-sandpaper oak (Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis-Q. vaseyana) woodlands. Important white-tailed deer forages that increased were oaks—primarily sandpaper oak, plantain (Plantago spp.)—and Pennsylvania pellitory (Parietaria pensylvanica) .
Although white-tailed deer may increase use of mechanically treated and burned Ashe juniper communities because of increased forage, removal of too much woody cover in these communities may be detrimental. Rollins and others  looked at white-tailed deer response to chaining and slash pine burning treatments in Ashe juniper-Texas live oak-sandpaper oak woodlands on the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, Texas, that reduced trees to various densities. Where 80% of trees were removed, white-tailed deer counts declined soon after treatments relative to pretreatment counts. In addition, white-tailed deer used openings on the treated sites less than an untreated site with more cover. In contrast, white-tailed deer counts increased following 50% and 70% removal of trees and continued to increase relative to pretreatment counts over the 2-year study. Mean white-tailed deer densities at these sites equaled or surpassed that of the untreated site. In these areas, open patches were used as much as patches providing cover, indicating that white-tailed deer were well-distributed throughout the treated sites. The author noted, however, that treated sites averaged about 309 acres (125 ha) and cautioned that white-tailed deer's response to larger treatments (for example, covering >2,500 acres (1,000 ha)) may be different. The author also commented that the untreated site maintained a relatively dense white-tailed deer population in good physical condition .
The size of the burned area may influence its use. At the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, 4 "improved" pastures with scattered Ashe junipers were burned under prescription in January and February. The pasture with the largest area burned (188 acres (76 ha)) and the greatest mortality of Ashe juniper (49%) also had the highest white-tailed deer density (0.38 white-tailed deer/ha) and the highest mean percent browse utilization (3.7%) the 2nd postfire year. These results were attributed to the generally more diverse habitat, higher mortality of Ashe juniper, large area burned, and extensive sprouting of desirable browse species (e.g., flameleaf sumac, Texas live oak, and netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata)). However, mean percent browse utilization was higher on all burns than controls (0.5%). White-tailed deer were thought to be using the burned areas to feed in and the unburned areas for cover. The authors noted no detrimental effects on white-tailed deer or their habitats by the prescribed fires . For more information about white-tailed deer use of burns in the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, see Travel patterns.
A 1991 history of grazing on the Kerr Wildlife Management Area reported that during the early 1930s and 1940s, the area was under a continuous grazing regime, and livestock stocking rates were very heavy. Heavy grazing and fire exclusion led to a dramatic shift in the vegetation, from tallgrass prairie to shortgrass prairie with dense stands of Ashe juniper. With the shift in vegetation, white-tailed deer numbers increased substantially. While white-tailed deer appeared to benefit from the establishment of Ashe juniper in prairie habitats, a "very hot" wildfire in the 1970s that killed many Ashe juniper trees also appeared to benefit them by increasing plant diversity and increasing browse, particularly oaks .
Post oak: In post oak (Quercus stellata) woodlands in Texas, fire may reduce the height of vegetation, making it more available to white-tailed deer. In addition, fire may increase mast production of mature post oak trees by thinning stands, which provides individual trees more space, water, nutrients, and sunlight. However, burning post oak woodlands too often may decrease mast production .
South-central US forests
Oak, pine-oak, and pine: In the Cross Timbers region of Oklahoma, white-tailed deer may prefer burned areas during the growing season but avoid them in winter due to lack of cover. Leslie and others  tracked seasonal habitat use by radiocollared male and female white-tailed deer on upland and bottomland forests. Females selected burned areas in spring, summer, and fall, but males selected them only in summer. Herbicides were sometimes used in combination with burning. Plots were burned under prescription annually (3 times in a row) in spring, and white-tailed deer use of plots was examined 2 to 3 years after the last annual burn and 5 to 6 years after herbicide treatment. The authors suggested that females may have benefitted from nutritional gains obtained by consuming plants growing on treated areas during late gestation (spring), lactation (summer), and prior to breeding (fall). Similarly, male deer on treated areas could have benefitted during antler growth in summer and prior to rut. However, treated areas likely lacked winter cover for both sexes . Previous work in this study area suggested that although herbicide treatments alone improved white-tailed deer browse (e.g., blackberry, coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), roughleaf dogwood, elm (Ulmus spp.), greenbrier, hackberry (Celtis spp.), and smooth sumac) quality up to 6 years after treatment, herbicide treatment in combination with prescribed burning did not improve browse quality 2 and 3 years after treatment. The authors suggested that any effects of burning might have been too short lived (<2 years) to produce a detectable difference . White-tailed deer doe carcass weights were 4 pounds (2 kg) heavier on treated than untreated areas (P<0.05). However, no differences between treated and untreated areas were detected in any morphological or reproductive parameter examined. Concentrations of total nitrogen, soluble nitrogen, and acid detergent fiber in postmortem feces of animals indicated better diet quality on treated than untreated areas in fall and winter but no such differences in spring, when white-tailed deer shifted from eating mainly browse to eating mainly forbs. The authors suggested that the diverse habitats created by treatments in the study area increased the nutritional quality of year-round white-tailed deer diets and thus improved white-tailed deer body condition .
Prescribed burning in mixed oak-pine forests may increase white-tailed deer forage, but white-tailed deer may select areas with abundant cover over areas with abundant food. Eight types of treatments were applied to post oak-shortleaf pine-blackjack oak forest stands on the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area, Oklahoma, in low-fertility soils of the Ouachita Mountains [261
- "rough reduction" winter prescribed fire at 4-year intervals to reduce fuel loads
- selective logging of overstory trees plus annual winter prescribed burning
- selective logging of overstory trees plus thinning of understory hardwoods
- selective logging of overstory trees, thinning of understory hardwoods, plus winter prescribed burning at 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-year intervals
- selective logging of overstory trees, thinning understory hardwoods, and winter prescribed burning at 3-year intervals
- selective logging of overstory trees, thinning understory hardwoods, and winter prescribed burning at 2-year intervals
- selective logging of overstory trees, thinning understory hardwoods, and winter prescribed burning annually
- clearcutting and site preparation treatments: shearing, raking, windrowing of logging debris, a summer prescribed fire, and planting of "genetically improved" loblolly pine seedlings
Treatments were compared with untreated controls. In general, understory winter burning in thinned stands at 1- or 2-year intervals favored grasses and legumes, particularly during the 1st growing season, while understory winter burning at 3- or 4-year intervals favored a mixture of herbs and shrubs. Overall standing crop of white-tailed deer forage was up to 27 times greater on logged, thinned, and burned sites than controls (4,234 kg/ha vs. 156 kg/ha; P=0.0001). Rough reduction fires increased overall forage standing crop 2.4 times compared to untreated controls (405 kg/ha vs. 171 kg/ha). However, the difference was not significant. The authors recommended prescribed burning at 2- to 4-year intervals on harvested sites to increase growth and availability of important white-tailed deer foods [260
]. A subsequent study examined the use of the treated sites by white-tailed deer. Pellet group counts for white-tailed deer did not differ among treatments in either 1988 (4 years after the first treatment) or 1994 (10 years after the first treatment) due to high variability among areas (P=0.11). An outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in 1993 complicated interpretation of results [261
Some white-tailed deer forage species increase after fire while others decrease or are unaffected. February prescribed burning combined with various herbicides affected standing biomass of species groups differently in oak-hickory stands at the Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area in northeastern Oklahoma. Legume, vine, woody, and total understory standing biomass was similar on burned and unburned stands. However, forb and graminoid biomass was greater on burned than unburned stands . In loblolly-shortleaf pine stands and in slash pine plantations of eastern Texas, prescribed fires did not affect overall white-tailed deer browse quantity but did reduce mast. The stand understories were 9 to 12 feet (2.7-3.7 m) tall before the fires and 2 to 6 feet (0.6-1.8 m) tall after. There had been no fire for at least 20 years. Prescribed burns occurred either in spring, late summer, or winter. Initially, overall forage quantity was reduced for 2 years after the fires compared to unburned controls, but browse production was similar to unburned controls by the 3rd postfire year. Herbaceous forage increased for at least 3 years after fire. Yaupon, which white-tailed deer use as forage, decreased after fire but other forages (e.g., American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), viburnum, herbs) increased. The total number of understory plants with fruit on burned plots was 72% less than on unburned plots by the 2nd postfire year. Although the number of dogwood plants with fruit increased 83%, the number of yaupon, American holly (Ilex opaca), sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria), and viburnum plants with fruits decreased (P<0.05 for all variables). Fire's net effect on vegetation during the 3 years of the study was considered an improvement . For more information about southern pine forests, see Southeast forests.
Hardwood forests in the Southern Appalachians and elsewhere are important sources of mast. Hard mast is an important food for white-tailed deer throughout its range, including the Southern Appalachians (see Diet). Oaks are fire-adapted: large oaks that provide acorns have thick bark that helps them survive frequent surface fires, and small-diameter oaks sprout after most fires, providing browse. Soft mast is an important component of white-tailed deer diets seasonally (see Diet). Soft mast production generally peaks 2 to 4 years after burning for most of the approximately 20 species in the Southeast that produce soft mast . Blueberries and blueberry browse may be preferred white-tailed deer forage . A stand-replacement fire in pine and hardwood stands in Virginia greatly increased the production of blueberries the 2nd growing season after burning. Production declined by postfire year 5 but remained higher than that on unburned plots (Coggins and Engle 1971 cited in ). Blueberry frequency is influenced by season and frequency of burning. Annual and biennial summer fires for 30 years in loblolly pine forests on the Coastal Plain of South Carolina reduced the numbers of blueberry plants, whereas annual winter burning did not .
The biomass of understory herbs and shrubs usually increases after fire in oak forests . Two and 3 growing seasons after late winter-early spring prescribed fires in oak forests in West Virginia, frequency of herbaceous vegetation was greater on plots that had been thinned and then burned under prescription than on an untreated control (P<0.05). The order of treatments may be important: The frequency of herbaceous vegetation was not significantly different between plots that had been burned first, then thinned, and control plots . In upland oak-mixed hardwood forest on the William B. Bankhead National Forest, Alabama, the amount of browse available to white-tailed deer was greater on 2- and 4-year-old logged and burned stands than on a 9-year-old logged but unburned stand. Stands were burned under prescription in fall or spring. Herb cover was 48% on the 2-year-old logged and burned stand and 10% on the 9-year-old logged stand . In closed-canopy upland oak-hickory forests in Chuck Swan State Forest and Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee, repeated low-severity prescribed fires at 2- to 4-year intervals increased forage biomass, and canopy reduction (either shelterwood or retention cut) followed by repeated low-severity prescribed fires produced even greater total forage biomass. The 1st growing season after treatments—the worst drought year on record—the carrying capacity for white-tailed deer was similar across treatments, but the 2nd growing season after treatments—a year of average rainfall—carrying capacity was higher in treated than untreated controls (Table 5). The authors attributed differences between carrying capacities to drought-induced stress on plants .
Table 5. Available forage biomass (kg/ha) and nutritional carrying capacity (white-tailed deer days/ha) of selected forage species following silvicultural treatments at Chuck Swan Forest and Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee. In 2007, the study area experienced the worst drought on record [216
]. Treatment July-September 2007 July-October 2008 Forage biomass* Carrying capacity Forage biomass* Carrying capacity Untreated control 150 de** 18 e 103 e 67 d Prescribed fire*** 212 cd 30 e 337 c 217 c Shelterwood cut**** 274 c 20 e 259 cd 151 c Shelterwood**** cut followed by prescribed fire*** 496 bc 20 e 651 ab 452 ab Retention cut***** followed by prescribed fire*** 591 b 79 e 844 a 591 a *Included 22 plant species identified in the literature and during the study as white-tailed deer forage species. **Means with the same letters in a column are not significantly different at P<0.05. ***All prescribed fires were conducted in April. ****Shelterwood cuts included a series of cuts where some trees were left in the overstory to shelter developing understory regeneration. All overstory trees were cut 6 to 8 years after initial harvest. *****Retention cuts involved removing "undesirable" tree species. Undesirable tree species included red maple, sugar maple, sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and yellow-poplar, while desirable trees included white oak, northern red oak, and American beech for hard mast production and black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and black cherry for soft mast production.
Shaw and others  recommended thinning or clearcutting to increase sunlight to the forest floor before burning. They detected a significant decrease in nutritional carrying capacity for white-tailed deer the 1st growing season (July and August) following an April low-severity prescribed fire in a closed-canopy white oak-yellow-poplar stand on the Tennessee Coastal Plain (P=0.02). Simultaneously, there was a significant increase in nutritional carrying capacity in a closed-canopy shortleaf pine-oak stand on the Cumberland Plateau (P=0.04; Table 6) .
Table 6. Nutritional carrying capacity (white-tailed deer days/acre) of selected forage species in Tennessee [367
] Treatment Carrying capacity shortleaf pine-oak white oak-yellow-poplar Untreated control 2.8 6.9 1 year after prescribed fire 4.6 2.1
Thinning and burning may increase mast production and generally increases forage. Thinning oak stands in central Massachusetts maintained acorn production despite fewer acorn producing trees. During 3 years, mean number of sound acorns ranged from 30,000 to 155,000 acorns/ha for unthinned stands and from 58,000 to 220,000 acorns/ha for thinned stands. Codominant and dominant oak trees were retained during thinning, and there were "immediate" increases in herbage, browse, and cover in the understory relative to unthinned controls . In shortleaf pine-oak forest in the Ouachita Mountains in west-central Arkansas, forage production for white-tailed deer was greater 1 to 3 growing seasons after thinning alone or thinning and burning treatments compared with untreated controls. The 1st treatment consisted of thinning midstory hardwood trees and some codominant pine and hardwood trees. The 2nd treatment included thinning and 1 to 4 dormant-season prescribed burns at 3-year intervals. The most important forage categories for white-tailed deer were preferred woody browse, forbs, and panicgrass (Panicum spp.). The fires increased forb and legume production but initially caused declines in panicgrass standing crop, low-preference woody species standing crop, and total woody species standing crop. Although grass standing crop more than doubled in treated stands, the primary grass species, longleaf woodoats (Chasmanthium sessiliflorum), and several bluestems were rarely used in any season by white-tailed deer. Plant groups contributing to white-tailed deer forage (panicgrass, sedge, forb, legume, and preferred woody species) were increased by thinning 6-fold and by thinning and prescribed fire >7-fold over control stands (434-520 kg/ha in treated stands vs. 69 kg/ha in control stands). Although understory hardwoods were removed during thinning treatments, they were generally <8 inches (20 cm) DBH, and oaks below this diameter contribute little mast production for white-tailed deer. Thus, the authors concluded that increases in forage production through thinning and prescribed fire more than offset the loss of limited mast production by midstory hardwoods, at least in the short term. Further, they stated that forage production is more dependable than mast production. However, they acknowledged that midstory thinning of hardwoods may limit potential future mast production . For more information on this and other studies in shortleaf pine habitats, see Southeast forests.
Fire may temporarily increase forage nutritional quality in oak stands. During the 1st growing season after an April, low-severity prescribed surface fire in a 30-year-old mixed-oak forest in central Wisconsin, the concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the leaves of red maple, black cherry, northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), and Allegheny blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) generally increased. The level of increase in most plants decreased as the growing season progressed .
White-tailed deer often prefer young burns. In upland, closed-canopy oak-hickory forests in Missouri, spring prescribed burns ranged from 150 to 598 acres (61-242 ha). White-tailed deer pellet groups were counted at 0 years (burned in the same year as the study), 2 years, 4 to 5 years, and >15 years since fire. Pellet group abundance differed among burn ages (P<0.05) and seemed to decrease with increasing age . For more information on this study, see Fire effects on white-tailed deer diseases and parasites.
Because white-tailed deer often concentrate in burned communities with oaks, heavy white-tailed deer browsing is often associated with a lack of oak regeneration after fires. On south slopes of 2- to 10-year-old burned areas in mixed-oak forest in central Pennsylvania, white-tailed deer browse production peaked 2 years after fire at 160 pounds/acre and declined by about half every 2 years afterward. The decline was attributed to heavy browsing by white-tailed deer and small mammals that concentrated in the burned areas . For more information, see Effects of herbivory on vegetation.
For information on white-tailed deer use of conifer forests in the Southern Appalachians, see Southeast forests. Southeast Southeast grasslands
In Shark Slough in Everglades National Park, Florida, white-tailed deer were more numerous in sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) stands 2 to 3 months after prescribed fires in January and February, when new sawgrass shoots appeared on the burned area, than before the fires [197
Pocosin: White-tailed deer may leave burned areas immediately after fire but return soon after. Immediately after a severe, large (45,000-acre (18,200 ha)) wildfire in 1986 in pocosin on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, white-tailed deer track counts were substantially less than before the fire. Direct mortality was "low" (<10%). The authors suggested that white-tailed deer dispersed from the area during the fire and gradually reoccupied the burned area over the next 6 to15 months. By the 2nd postfire year, track counts had returned to the levels of 1985 .
White-tailed deer body condition may improve after fire in pocosin. Johnson and others  documented subtle, short-term improvements in white-tailed deer body mass and condition in pocosin habitat after the 45,000-acre wildfire on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Limited evidence suggested that body mass and body condition of harvested white-tailed deer increased following the fire, especially in young males. Mean condition indices increased from 1.0 the 2 years prior to the fire to 2.8 the 1st postfire year, then declined to 1.7 the 2nd and 3rd postfire years. The authors attributed the initial increase to the increased use of agricultural crops in surrounding areas and supplemental feed supplied for white-tailed deer after the fire, but they did not discount the possibility that increased quality of vegetation in the burned area may have contributed. White-tailed deer diets in burned and unburned areas were similar, except fruits were absent during the 1st postfire fall and peaked at 40% of the aggregate volume during the 3rd postfire fall, when the study ended. Laurelleaf greenbrier (Smilax laurifolia) berries were the predominant fruit consumed. Crude protein content of important white-tailed deer browse species was higher in samples from burned areas than unburned areas the 1st postfire winter for all species, but it was higher only for holly in summer. Differences were still evident in the 2nd postfire winter and 2nd postfire summer only for swamp cyrilla (Cyrilla racemiflora). Phosphorus levels were higher in burned than unburned areas for all browse examined through the 2nd growing season. A similar trend was apparent for calcium. Digestible dry matter of swamp cyrilla, the only species tested, was higher in burned than unburned areas of the pocosin 4 months after the fire (45% in burned areas vs. 38% in unburned areas) but did not differ between burned and unburned areas 9 months after the fire (45% for both areas) . In contrast, after a 94,654-acre (38,305 ha) wildfire in pocosin in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina, relative densities, harvest totals, percent fawns in the harvest, and selected physical characteristics of white-tailed deer following the fire were not different from before fire even though 20% of the white-tailed deer population was killed by the fire and 20% of the survivors were severely injured (see Direct Fire Effects). However, cohort analysis revealed a 16% decline in the number of animals from the 1st postfire fawn class when compared with classes from the previous 5 years [184,304]. The impact of the fire on white-tailed deer habitat varied in relation to soil characteristics and the severity of the ground fire. Where the fire burned deeply, many of the broad-leaved evergreen shrubs were killed, and many of these sites appeared to be revegetating with grasses and sedges, resulting in an overall loss of soft mast. However, the authors speculated that these losses may be offset temporarily by improvements in fruit and browse quality in areas not burned as deeply .
Pine rocklands: Prescribed fire is frequently used in pine rocklands as management for Key deer (e.g., [56,57]). Deterioration of habitat quality due to fire exclusion is thought to be a factor in Key deer population declines . Plants in pine rocklands are well-adapted to and require fire for continued existence (i.e., to prevent establishment of and shading by hardwoods) . Succession of pine rocklands to hardwood hammock communities in the absence of fire occurs in 2 to 3 decades on the mainland of southern Florida but may take twice as long on the drier Keys. Taylor (1980 cited in ) stated that historical fire intervals may have averaged only about 8 years in southern Florida pine rocklands. See the Fire Regime Table for information on historical FIRE REGIMES associated with pine rocklands.
Key deer browse nutritional content may increase, decrease, or be unchanged by burning of pine rocklands. At the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge on Big Pine Key, a study examined the nutritive content of Key deer browse on 3 burned sites: 2 burned in August prescribed fires and 1 burned in a July wildfire. All fires were of high severity, with scorch on South Florida slash pines (Pinus elliottii var. densa) >10 feet (3 m) high. Key deer use of several common plants (redgal, Florida Keys blackbead (Pithecellobium keyense), Everglades greenbrier (Smilax coriacea), South Florida slash pine (<6.6 feet (2 m)), and Long Key locustberry (Byrsonima lucida)) were noted during the 1st postfire year. Crude protein of redgal was generally higher in burned than unburned plots in March, May, July, and November of the 1st postfire year, whereas crude protein of Florida Keys blackbead was similar in burned and unburned plots throughout the 4 sampling periods. The authors concluded that while fire probably provides a short-term, within-year increase in nutritive value of some Key deer browse, arresting succession of pine rocklands to hardwood hammocks may be the greatest benefit of burning to Key deer because it favors herbaceous plants important in the Key deer's diet. The authors concluded that a fire periodicity of 5 to 10 years should accomplish that but maintaining diverse stand ages was also important .
A Key deer in an area burned under prescription the previous day on the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key in Florida. Photo courtesy of Josh O'Connor, US Fish and Wildlife Service.
White-tailed deer frequent shortleaf, longleaf, loblolly, and slash pine forests of the Southeast and elsewhere. These forests often have understories with hardwood browse and forbs. Prescribed fire in southeastern pine forests can benefit white-tailed deer and other wildlife by increasing sprouting browse; providing seedbeds for legumes and herbs; stimulating germination of seed by increasing light on the forest floor; improving understory cover; increasing nutrient contents of browse; and enhancing palatability of forage. However, most of these effects typically last only 1 to 3 years. Furthermore, very frequent prescribed fire can be detrimental to white-tailed deer and other wildlife in southeastern pine forests by simplifying forest structure. Repeated annual summer burning may reduce understory hardwoods, thus eliminating understory mast-producing plants and allowing sites to be dominated by fire-tolerant forbs and grasses [52,185,276,394].
Many, but not all, studies in southeastern forests have reported an increase in browse and forage production after prescribed burning. Furthermore, browse is often more accessible to white-tailed deer because its height is reduced [52,251]. However, fire generally needs to be repeated to maintain high yields of white-tailed deer forage . Maas and others summarize fire effects on many white-tailed deer forage plants in southeastern forests . Forb production in burned southeastern pine forests generally peaks in 2 or 3 years following fire, while browse production peaks in 5 years. Burning every 3 to 4 years is generally recommended for white-tailed deer . In shortleaf pine-white oak-chestnut oak stands in Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee, white-tailed deer browse biomass 4 months after fire was less on an area burned under prescription than on an unburned control area. However, browse biomass was 3.5 and 5.4 times greater on burned areas 16 months and 28 months after prescribed fire, respectively, than on the control area (Table 7). The authors concluded that burning increased browse for white-tailed deer by stimulating sprouting from understory plants, but not until the 2nd postfire growing season . Total white-tailed deer forage in August of the 1st postfire growing season was greater on burned plots and burned and thinned plots than on untreated plots in 8- to 9-year-old loblolly pine plantation in Kemper County, Mississippi (P<0.05; Table 8). Plots were burned in February and thinned in March. Total white-tailed deer forage was also greater on burned and thinned plots than on control plots in August of the 1st postfire growing season. In February, however, total white-tailed deer forage was not different among the plots. The authors suggested burning plantations every 2 years to increase and maintain white-tailed deer forage . Burning and thinning 13-year-old loblolly pine plantations in Kemper County, Mississippi, increased total white-tailed deer forage from the prefire average of 26 kg/ha to 326 kg/ha in August, at the end of the 1st growing season after treatment, and to 429 kg/ha in August at the end of the 2nd growing season. Most white-tailed deer forage in the treated areas was forbs, vines, and lianas. The authors recommended burning every 3rd year to maintain abundant white-tailed deer forage .
Table 7. Effects of 3 low-severity March prescribed fires on white-tailed deer browse in shortleaf pine-white oak-chestnut oak forests in Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee [97
] Time since fire Browse biomass (pounds/acre) 4 months 127.6 16 months
28 months 930.6 Unburned control 173.1 Table 8
. Mean oven-dry weight (kg/ha) of grasses, forbs, vines, and woody plants on burned, burned and thinned, and control plots in an 8- to 9-year old loblolly pine plantation in Kemper County, Mississippi [171
] Time since fire Month sampled Treatment Control Burned Burned and thinned 6 months after fire August 649 a* 610 a 128 b 18 months after fire 314 ab 498 a 154 b Combined 481.5 a 553.8 a 140.8 b 1 year after fire February 75.4 a 60.2 a 45.8 a 2 years after fire 37.7 a 45.9 a 6.5 a Combined 56.6 a 53.0 a 26.1 b *Different letters in the same row indicate that means are significantly different at P<0.05.
Not all studies found increased white-tailed deer herbaceous forage after fire. In clearcut longleaf pine sites on the Southlands Experiment Forest in Georgia, mean frequencies of herbaceous food plants (legumes, composites, and grasses) on plots that were clearcut and then May slash-burned were not significantly different from untreated clearcut plots 1 to 3 years after treatments. Mean frequencies of herbaceous food plants on clearcut-and-slash-burned plots and those on plots that were clearcut, slash-burned, then burned under prescription 8 months after slash burning, were also not significantly different. Herbaceous food plants on clearcut-and-slash-burned plots were sampled 16 months after treatments and plots that were clearcut, slash-burned, then burned under prescription were sampled 8 months after treatments .
The season and frequency of burning greatly affects vegetation response on southeastern pine forests. According to a review, the "vigor" of sprouts is generally greater following dormant-season than growing-season burns in southeastern pine forests . Understory hardwoods can be eliminated by repeated annual summer burning. According to a review, 3 to 10 annual summer burns will eliminate 80% of the hardwood rootstocks, depending on species. Annual winter burning, even if done for decades, will not kill hardwood rootstocks. Occasional burning in southeastern pine forests often increases the density of hardwood stems in the understory because multiple sprouts replace single top-killed stems. Hardwood species composition is unlikely to be changed by burning rotations of 4 to 6 years because no hardwood species are eliminated and most sprout . Twenty years of low-severity annual June burning in loblolly pine forests at the Santee Fire Plots in South Carolina nearly eliminated understory woody plants, which were replaced by grasses and forbs. Sixteen years of biennial June burning reduced understory hardwood stem (<4.9 inches (12.5 cm) DBH) density but did not eliminate hardwoods from the understory. Periodic summer and December burning resulted in similar woody plant stem densities. Periodic burning was conducted at 3- to 7-year-intervals, when 25% of the understory hardwood stems reached 1 inch (2.5 cm) DBH. Stems >4.9 inches DBH were unaffected by all burning treatments [231,440]. For more information about the timing and frequency of burning in southeastern pine forests, see Fire Management Considerations.
While most burning may lead to a reduction in browse and an increase in forbs and grasses, infrequent burning would likely allow a dense midstory to develop out of the reach of white-tailed deer and would ultimately reduce plant growth underneath . Cain and others  suggested that without periodic fire or other techniques for controlling the height of understory woody plants in uneven-aged pine stands, white-tailed deer habitat quality would likely diminish. In shortleaf pine habitats, white-tailed deer occur in all stages of succession either in the absence of fire or with frequent surface fire (1- to 5-year intervals). However, their densities tend to be highest in habitats with relatively frequent fire. At about 8 to 10 years after fire, sapling stems become dense, canopies begin to close, and herbaceous vegetation declines. Unless prescribed fire is used on a least a 3-year late-dormant season cycle, white-tailed deer use declines by postfire year 10. Prescribed fire reduces sapling density and maintains the herbaceous understory. In mid- and late-successional stands, white-tailed deer numbers continue to decline as midstory hardwoods develop and the herb layer declines from litter buildup and shading .
Although most burning regimes in southeastern pine forests increase sprouting, they may have variable effects on fruit production. Fruit production of gallberry (Ilex glabra), huckleberry, and blueberry was reduced the 1st year after prescribed burning in 16- to 30-year-old slash pine plantations in Georgia, but it increased markedly by the 3rd postfire year. Total fruit production was greatest in 4-year-old stands, and the number of species fruiting was greatest in 6- to 10-year-old stands . Fruit production of woody shrubs was similar on cut and burned (91 kg/ha) and unburned control (89 kg/ha) loblolly pine-shortleaf pine-hardwood forest plantations in eastern Texas 3 years after burning . Legumes often increase in abundance and seed production following fire . Saw-palmetto is an important understory plant in pine flatwoods. White-tailed deer use it for escape cover  and sometimes eat the fruits, particularly during drought years . According to a review, saw-palmetto fruit production may be reduced by half the 1st year after a fire but peaks at 5 postfire years. The authors suggested that prescribed burning for white-tailed deer in pine flatwoods every 3 to 5 years . Caution is warranted in regard to fire frequency. A review by Maehr and Larkin  suggested that winter prescribed fires at <3-year intervals in southern Florida flatwoods may disrupt the life cycles of native plants and animals that require >3 years to recover from fire . For more information on fruit production following fire, see Southern Appalachians. See also FEIS reviews of species of interest.
Based on a review of 16 studies of fire effects in Southeastern forests, Stransky and Harlow  proposed several generalizations about the effects of fire on plant nutrition. They concluded that winter burns in the Southeast increased forage crude protein and phosphorus content of grasses, forbs, and browse; increased palatability of forage; increased number of woody plant stems; increased cover of grasses, forbs, and legumes; and reduced soft mast production. Most of these effects lasted 3 years or less. Infrequent growing-season burns had similar effects, except that woody stems were reduced. However, frequent growing-season burns would eventually eliminate woody stems and lead to domination by grasses and fire-adapted forbs . While this review provides some useful generalizations, fire's effects on forest understories are quite variable and often short-lived. Two months after winter prescribed burning in longleaf pine-pineland threeawn (Aristida stricta) savanna in North Carolina, plants contained more nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium than on unburned areas. However, these differences disappeared within months after burning . Forage quality was similar in burned and unburned loblolly pine stands on the Francis Marion National Forest, South Carolina. After a single January prescribed fire, nutrient concentrations were higher on burned plots in the 1st postfire growing season but not in the 2nd or 3rd . A study in Florida sandridge habitat found no substantial differences in plant nutrient levels from 3 to 54 years since fire . Chemical analyses of red maple, sourwood, and sassafras (moderately browsed white-tailed deer forage in the area) following a prescribed fire in shortleaf pine-white oak-chestnut oak stands in Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee, showed no significant effects of burning on nutritional quality 3, 6, and 10 months after fire .
Carrying capacity for white-tailed deer often increases in burned habitats in southeastern pine forests. Thirteen- to 22-year-old loblolly pine plantations in the Upper Coastal Plain and Lower Coastal Plain of Mississippi were thinned, treated with herbicide, and then burned under prescription 1 to 6 winters later. One and 2 years after burning, plantations were sampled in July for production of white-tailed deer. Prior to treatments, Upper Coastal Plain sites had baseline carrying capacities nearly 8 times greater than Lower Coastal Plain sites. White-tailed deer foraging habitat was improved by treatments in both regions by postfire year 2. Treatments reduced midstory hardwood cover from 25% to 1% in the Upper Coastal Plain and from 59% to 4% in the Lower Coastal Plain (Sladek 2006 cited in ), increasing sunlight at ground level. Two years after treatments, white-tailed deer carrying capacity was 3 times greater than controls in the Upper Coastal Plain and 19 times greater than controls in the Lower Coastal Plain, largely due to increased forb species richness, cover, and/or biomass . In 18- to 22-year-old pine plantations in Kemper County, Mississippi, prescribed winter burning during 2000, 2003, and 2006 produced no consistent increases in white-tailed deer forage over 9 years (2000-2008). However, carrying capacity was significantly higher in burned than unburned control plots in years 8 (178 white-tailed deer-days/ha in burned vs. 74 white-tailed deer-days/ha in control plots) and 9 (148 white-tailed deer-days/ha in burned vs. 60 white-tailed deer-days/ha in control plots) .
White-tailed deer often use recently burned sites. Four male white-tailed deer in a 58-acre (23 ha) pen in a longleaf pine forest in eastern Texas used an area that was burned under prescription in March twice as much as an adjacent unburned area during the 1st and 2nd postfire years. Use of the burned area increased 60% compared to before treatment. Prior to the fire there were 264 to 272 pounds/acre of browse, and during the first 2 postfire years there were 264 to 332 pounds/acre of browse. Both burned and unburned areas had been logged and burned about 25 years prior to the study . For information on related studies, see South-central US forests. On the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, white-tailed deer apparently were attracted to improved forage in recently burned areas. They were marginally more abundant in a South Florida slash pine flatwood burned under prescription 24 months earlier than in a similar area burned under prescription 48 months earlier (P=0.12). Both fires were in January. The 48-month-old site was burned again, and white-tailed deer abundance was determined <6 months later. White-tailed deer used the <6-month-old burned site more than previously (P=0.02) and at levels similar to their use of the now 30-month-old burned site .
Intensive site preparation practices that use prescribed fire are common in southeastern pine plantations. Often prescribed fire is combined with mechanical treatments such as shearing, chopping, raking, and disking (e.g., [46,237]). According to Newsom , intensively managed pine plantations in the Coastal Plain generally produce lower yields of white-tailed deer food than mixed pine/hardwood forests. For example, in a 6-year-old loblolly pine plantation on the lower Piedmont of Georgia on the Hitchiti Experimental Forest, plots were sheared and raked into windrows, windrows were burned, and the ash and debris were scattered over the plots and disked into the soil. The June following treatments, grass and forb biomass was greater on treated than untreated control sites; however, liana biomass was less on treatments than controls. Because lianas such Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and greenbrier are highly preferred by white-tailed deer and grasses and forbs are less important, the treatments were considered detrimental to white-tailed deer . Harris and others  compared residual effects of 3 site preparations in 9-year-old slash pine stands on the Florida Coastal Plain. The "low-intensity" treatment consisted of clearcutting and broadcast burning. The "medium-intensity" treatment consisted of clearcutting, broadcast burning, and blade and harrow scarification, while the "high-intensity" treatment added bedding to the medium-intensity treatment. White-tailed deer seemed to prefer the low-intensity treatments over the medium- and high-intensity treatments. Grasses and forbs were most abundant following the low-intensity treatment . For more information about the role of prescribed fire in intensive site preparation, see Buckner .
For information on hardwood forests of the Southeast, see Southern Appalachians. For more information about southern pine forests, see South-central US forests. Reviews are available about the use of prescribed fire in southeastern pine forests (e.g., [40,238,251]). See also FEIS reviews of species of interest.