Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

James L. Byford, J. Larry Wilson, Ralph W. Dimmick


A study was conducted from January 1973 to April 1974 to determine the density and distribution of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) population in the Cades Cove area of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Raccoons were live-trapped, anesthetized with Sernylan, ear-tagged, aged, weighed and measured. Beginning in April 1973 an epizootic of canine distemper occurred in the raccoon population in Cades Cove, enabling this study to demonstrate the impact of an epizootic on a raccoon population.

During 2870 trap nights, 217 raccoons were captured, of which 106 were recaptures. The 111 individual raccoons captured consisted of 48 males and 63 females (0.76 male per 1 female). Data indicated a change in sex ratio from 0.53 male per 1 female for the pre-epizootic period to 2.03 males per 1 female for the post-epizootic period. Data also indicated a change in the age structure of the population resulting in a greater proportion of juveniles and a decline in the 15-38 month age class after the epizootic. Raccoon weights changed seasonally, and body measurements varied widely among individuals of each age class. Limited data indicated home ranges for male raccoons in Cades Cove to be three times greater than those of females.

Five methods of population estimation were used and compared. They indicated the average raccoon density in Cades Cove to be 1 raccoon per 17.5 ha before the epizootic in 1973, and 1 raccoon per 51.8 ha in 1974. The pre-epizootic raccoon population in Cades Cove was estimated to be 251, which declined 75.0 percent after the epizootic, using the Frequency of Capture method of population estimation which was judged preferable for estimating number of raccoons, while it was necessary to use the Jolly method to demonstrate population trends.

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