Date of Award

12-1981

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

Arthur C. Echternacht, Gary McCracken, Clifford Amundsen, Leon Potgeiter

Abstract

From September 1979 through September 1980, 288 captures of 153 raccoons were made in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Fourteen raccoons were equipped with radio-transmitters to monitor movements, activity patterns, and denning behavior. Measurements, blood samples, and ectoparasites were taken from all animals.

Population density was estimated to be 1 raccoon/17 ha with sex and age ratios indicating a stable population. Parturition occurred in early June with a mean litter size of 2.8 young. Average longevity of raccoons was 30 months with a maximum longevity of approximately 86 months. There were indications of increased male mortality in the older age classes.

Telemetric monitoring indicated an activity peak around 2100 hours. Seasonal and annual home ranges of males were significantly larger than those of females with extensive seasonal home range overlap among both sexes. Extensive reuse of day bed sites was observed for both sexes with rock and tree dens being the favored types. Day bed selection was not based upon the frequency of particular day bed types or tree species occurring with the animals home range. Variability in seasonal temperatures of different bed types indicated that micro-climatic regimes may contribute to differential seasonal use of day beds. Given a choice, raccoons appear to select a variety of day bed types throughout the year.

Plasma protein concentrations were significantly lower in young, nonreproductive raccoons. Red blood cell counts and hemoglobin concentrations in females, and red blood cell counts eosinophil levels and males, were elevated during the reproductive period. Of 117 raccoons, 3 had antibody titers to canine hepatitis virus, and 2 had titers to canine parvovirus. Of 148 raccoons, 73% were positive for blood microfilariae with all but one containing Tetrapetalonema llewellyni. Seventy-four percent of 385 ticks collected were Dermacentor variabilis with the remainder being Ixodes sp.

The Cades Cove raccoon population appeared to be healthy and stable and showed characteristics that may be indicative of a relatively natural, undisturbed population.

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