Top: from a helicopter a prescribed fire marches through the pines below, seldom killing mature trees but recycling old shrubbery into new growth for wildlife; bottom: a bobcat, often confused with the larger Florida panthe , also benefits from management conducted for panthers.
Habitat Management All habitat management activities on the Refuge benefit the Florida panther and are intended to improve, restore, and maintain optimal conditions for the panther and the other plants and animals that depend on healthy native habitats. Prescribed burning and non-native plant removal are two of the most important habitat management techniques.
Why do we burn the refuge? The Refuge staff utilizes fire to maintain healthy native vegetation communities on the refuge. Fire is set under “prescribed” conditions. These prescribed burns are only conducted if the winds, temperature and humidity are within a designated range and the refuge has adequate staff and equipment. By conducting burns under particular conditions, the staff can control the location, intensit , and duration of the fire. In Florida, fire is an important part of the natural ecology of many vegetation communities, such as pinelands and wet prairies. Fire is needed to maintain these communities and prevent the encroachment of shrubs such as wax myrtle and willows. Fire also reduces hazardous build up of debris and dead vegetation which can fuel wildfires.