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Mississippi State University

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Home Range and Habitat Use


Results

TWMA

We estimated 335 seasonal home ranges from 131 adult raccoons (99 males, 32 females) on TWMA. Home range size differed between sexes (P <0.001) with males having larger home ranges (200.7 ha) than females (114.3 ha). Home range sizes differed moderately across seasons (P = 0.061) with largest home ranges during breeding-gestation (190.0 ha). Core use areas did not differ across seasons (P = 0.151), but did between sexes (P <0.001) with males having larger core areas (31.1 ha) than females (16.1 ha).

GP

We estimated 98 seasonal home ranges from 31 adult raccoons (23 male, 8 female). Home range sizes did not differ across seasons (P = 0.659) or between sexes (P = 0.138). Similarly, core area sizes did not differ across seasons (P = 0.325) or between sexes (P = 0.217). Habitat Selection

TWMA

Raccoon selection of home ranges during breeding-gestation differed (P <0.001) from the availability of habitats across the study area. Raccoons selected mature pine and hardwood stands when establishing home ranges. Similarly, core area selection differed (P <0.001) from availability of habitats within the home range. Raccoons selected mature hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood stands when establishing core areas. Habitats used within home ranges also differed (P <0.001) from the availability of habitats within the home range. Raccoons used mature pine and mixed pine-hardwood stands greater than the availability of those habitats within the home range.

Raccoon selection of home ranges during parturition-young rearing differed (P <0.001) from the availability of habitats across the study area. Raccoons selected mature pine stands when establishing home ranges. Similarly, core area selection differed (P <0.001) from availability of habitats within the home range. Raccoons selected mature hardwood, pine, and "other" habitats when establishing core areas. Habitats used within home ranges also differed (P <0.001) from the availability of habitats within the home range. Raccoons used mature hardwood and pine stands greater than availability within the home range.

Raccoon selection of home ranges during fall-winter differed (P <0.001) from the availability of habitats across the study area. Raccoons selected mature and 0-8 year-old pine stands when establishing home ranges, whereas "other" habitats were least selected. Similarly, core area selection differed (P = 0.005) from availability of habitats within the home range. Raccoons selected mature hardwood, 0-8 year-old pine, and mature pine stands when establishing core areas. Habitats used within home ranges also differed (P <0.001) from the availability of habitats within the home range. Raccoons used mature pine, mixed pine-hardwood, and mature hardwood stands greater than the availability within the home range.

GP

During breeding-gestation, male home ranges contained greater proportions of 16+ year-old pine stands than availability across the study area. Female home ranges contained greater proportions of 16+ year-old pine stands than availability across the study area, whereas 0-4 year-old and mature hardwood stands were least selected.

During parturition-young rearing, male home ranges contained greater proportions of 16+ year-old pine and mixed pine-hardwood stands than availability across the study area. Female home ranges contained greater proportions of 16+ year-old and mixed pine-hardwood stands than availability across the study area, whereas 0-4 year-old pine stands were least selected.

During fall-winter, male home ranges contained greater proportions of 16+ year-old pine and mixed pine-hardwood stands than availability across the study area. Female home ranges contained greater proportions of 16+ year-old pine stands than availability across the study area, whereas mature hardwood stands were least selected by females when establishing home ranges. Raccoons selected core areas with greater proportions of mature hardwoods than availability within the home range, whereas 9-15 year-old pine plantations were least selected when establishing core areas. Raccoons used mixed pine-hardwood and 16+ year-old stands most, whereas 0-4 year-old pine stands were least selected.

Summary

Previous research throughout the southeastern United States has reported raccoons to typically prefer bottomland hardwood forests, swamps, marshes, and flooded timber stands. In fact, several studies have suggested an avoidance of upland, pine-dominated stands by raccoons. Although raccoons on TWMA and GP selected mature hardwood habitats at multiple spatial scales, our data suggest that early seral stage pine may be important to raccoons seasonally. Early successional pine habitats on our study areas contained an abundance of soft mast (blackberries and dewberries) frequently used by raccoons. Hence, use of these areas was likely a response to increasing prey abundance. Likewise, raccoons selected mature pine habitats across spatial scales, indicating the importance of mature pine habitats in managed landscapes. Until 1994, prescribed burn rotation on TWMA averaged 6.5 years and was practically non-existent on GP. Mature pine stands contained dense understory vegetation dominated by vine, thus selection of these areas was likely a function of food availability.

Management Implications

Our data suggest that mature hardwoods and pine stands are important to raccoons on both study areas. However, raccoons did frequently select young (0-8 years-old) pine habitats, indicating the importance of these habitats to raccoons seasonally. These points suggest that although raccoons are capable of using and existing in a variety of habitats, certain habitats across managed landscapes are selected when available. Managers should recognize the importance of mature forested stands to raccoons, but be cognizant that raccoons may frequently use early successional habitats seasonally.