Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Charles L. Elliott

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Abstract

The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is one of many species that have adapted to living in urban/suburban environments. In this study, radio-tagged raccoons within the city limits of Richmond, KY, were monitored to locate rest sites. A rest site is defined as any site occupied by a raccoon during the non-motile periods of its daily activity cycle. Thirty-three different rest sites were located throughout the spring and summer seasons of 2009-10. With some rest sites being used multiple times for a total of 50.

Of the individual rest sites located, 9, 16, and 8 were located in trees, in shrubs or in the ground, and in buildings, respectively, with no use of tree cavities. The most commonly used tree was black cherry (Prunus serotina). Raccoons significantly chose the largest trees available (mean DBH 44.1 cm, t = 3.44, P < 0.05). Most ground rest sites were associated with abandoned groundhog (Marmota monax) burrows and located in vegetated edges and nearby fields. The demands of maintaining a proper thermal neutral zone during the heat of the summer probably accounts for the frequent use of abandoned groundhog burrows as rest sites in this study. Anthropogenic sources were capitalized on by raccoons for use as rest sites in this study, e.g., chimneys, rafters of a warehouse, under a house and in a makeshift tent. Although specific features characterizing the attractiveness of these structures as rest sites were not evident, but it was theorized that predator avoidance and cover played a significant role.

As a non-consumptive approach to raccoon population control in an urban area, I recommend a raccoon management plan implementing one or more of the following: removal of large DBH trees, trapping of groundhogs to eliminate ground rest site options, eliminating points of access into buildings, and increased maintenance (mowing) of overgrown areas.

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