Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Effects of Summer Hunting on Raccoon Populations
To assess the effects of summer hunting on raccoon populations, we radio-monitored 94 raccoons (72 male, 22 female) from 1 July to 23 August, 1996-97 on 2 adjacent areas with or without a summer hunting season. We detected no differences in mean movement rate (P = 0.726) between the hunted (757 m/hr) and control areas (724 m/hr). Similarly, we observed no differences (P = 0.307) in home range size between hunted (219 ha, n = 42) and control raccoons (198 ha, n = 51) during the summer hunting season. Additionally, annual survival did not differ (P = 0.356) between raccoons in the summer hunting (0.60) and control (0.69) areas. However, patterns of mortality varied between the summer hunting and control areas (P <0.001), and seasonally (P = 0.003). Eighteen raccoons (9 marked, 9 unmarked) were harvested during the summer hunts. Three of 9 (33%) unmarked raccoons harvested were birth-year raccoons.
Implementing summer hunting did not lower annual survival of male or female raccoons relative to raccoons in the control area. High female harvest during parturition-young rearing could affect raccoon populations through reduced juvenile survival and lowered recruitment. Although female survival in the hunting area was lower during summer hunting, our data rejected the hypothesis that female survival would decline during summer in the hunting zone relative to females in the control area. Female harvest during summer was low (n = 3) likely a function of dense vegetation canopies during summer and hunter attitude. Discussions with raccoon hunters indicated that most were not specifically interested in harvesting all raccoons treed during summer. Rather, most hunters suggested that providing hunting dogs with training before winter hunting seasons was more desirable than harvesting all treed raccoons during summer. The lack of differences in annual survival between areas suggests compensatory responses to summer harvest as mortalities other than harvest during summer hunting were rare on the summer hunting area. Additionally, raccoons on the summer hunting area were more likely to experience mortality during the summer hunting season, but annually, survival did not differ between the 2 areas.
Our findings indicate that a summer raccoon hunting season would have minimal effects on raccoon populations. We observed that movement rates during summer raccoon hunts were not different between hunted and non-hunted areas, suggesting little extra energy expenditure for raccoons subjected to summer hunting. Our data also indicate that summer hunting does not affect home range size and acts as a compensatory mortality agent annually. These findings indicate that a hunting seasons in summer for raccoon, and particularly a summer chase season, should not negatively affect raccoon populations through changes in home range sizes, movements, or survival patterns. We suggest that with moderate numbers of dogs in hunting parties (2-3), conservative bag limits (2-3 raccoons/party/night), and limited hunting frequency, a summer raccoon hunting season will have minimal effects on raccoon population dynamics.