Southern Sierra Nevada Carnivore Project

California experienced a severe drought from 2012-2015 which led to a massive bark beetle outbreak in the water stressed trees. It has been estimated that this led to the death of over 100 million trees with the majority located in the central and southern Sierra Nevada. This tree mortality and drought contributed to severe fire conditions and in 2021 and 2022 the SSN experienced a series of uncharacteristically large and severe wildfires that combined burned over 2,670 km2.

Both the tree mortality and subsequent wildfires represent major disturbance events that have the potential to profoundly affect wildlife populations. Concerns about these ecological disturbances are particularly acute for the federally endangered southern Sierra Nevada fisher population. The ways that these dramatic changes in forest composition may impact fisher, and other forest dependent mammals, are complex and varied may result in significant changes to their abundance and spatial distribution.

We are collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Carnivore Monitoring Program to model the response of the southern Sierra Nevada fisher population to the widespread tree mortality and subsequent large-scale wildfires. This project will provide the information needed to make informed decisions regarding the conservation and restoration of healthy, diverse, and resilient ecosystems.