Date of Award
Master of Science
Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Michael R. Pelton
Boyd L. Dearden, Ralph W. Dimmick, David A. Etnier
The impacts of summer dog training on reproductive success and movement ecology of adult female raccoons were studied through radio telemetry on 2 portions of a study area (5133 ha) on Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee. Telemetry data from 24 radio-collared female raccoons were collected from 3 March 1987 to 15 August 1988. From 8 June 1987 to 12 October 1987 and from 5 March 1988 to 10 August 1988, 83 experimental dog training sessions were conducted in the vicinity of 12 radio-collared female raccoons on the experimental portion of the study area. The 246 animals treed were classified as one of the radio-collared raccoons 78 times (31%), young-of-year 18 times (7%), eartagged 14 times (6%), untagged 24 times (10%), eye reflection 26 times (11%), and unseen 76 times (31%). One radio-collared female raccoon never returned to her offspring following an experimental dog training session during which she was chased and treed. A nursing, radio-collared female was caught and killed by a dog and an untagged male raccoon jumped from a tree and was killed by the dogs during experimental dog training sessions. All raccoons seen (69%) could have been illegally harvested with or without the aid of a firearm. Night refugia included 220 trees and 26 burrows or caves. Large and/or leafy trees and underground refugia tended to offer the most protection to treed raccoons. Oaks comprised 40% of the night refugia.
Home range size prior to and during experimental dog training sessions did not differ between chased and unchased females, nor did distance between consecutive activity centers or nocturnal movement rates. Mean probability of nocturnal activity was significantly less for experimental animals (X=0.74) than for control animals (X=0.82), suggesting a shift by chased females to more diurnal activity in response to dog training exercises.
Bivariate ellipse home range estimates averaged 143.8 ha at the 95% confidence level; convex polygon model estimates averaged 93.2 ha. Home range estimates compared favorably to previous reports for female raccoons during summer in Tennessee. Estimated home range size was significantly reduced during nursing, but was similar during pregnancy and weaning. Litter sizes of radio-collared females ranged from 1 to 5, with a mean of 2.4 offspring per litter. Litters of 4 chased and 3 unchased study animals were abandoned and orphaned due to researcher disturbance (n=3), experimental dog training activities (n=l), haybaling operations (n=l), and mortality (n=2).
The location of 268 individual day rest sites 444 times indicated that trees were chosen more frequently (86.5%) than ground dens (13.5%). Maternity sites were restricted to cavities in large trees (X=188.4 cm), and occupied for a mean of 50 days. Leaf nests were utilized as day rest sites 19.8% of the time, which was more frequent than previously reported from Tennessee. Ground dens were observed as day rest sites for 13.5% of the day locations, and included ground burrows, rock crevices, and caves.
During 1920 trapnights, 227 raccoons were captured 327 times as part of population estimation efforts. Density estimates of 1 raccoon/13.8 ha for late summer 1986 and 1 raccoon/13.4 for late summer 1987 were obtained from Jolly-Seber population estimates for the study area.
During a three night managed hunt in 1986, 77 raccoons were harvested by 109 parties for a success rate of 70.6% or 1 raccoon/94.6 ha. A 4-night managed hunt in 1987 yielded 117 raccoons to 161 parties for a success rate of 72.7% or 1 raccoon/62.3 ha. On the experimental portion of the study area, 25% and 35% of the estimated late summer population was legally harvested in 1986 and 1987, respectively. Reproductive tracts from females harvested in 1986 and 1987 indicated a pregnancy rate of 65% and 46%, with a mean of 1.9 and 2.6 young per litter, respectively. The 44 parties/night quota system resulted in an apparent sustained yield with high hunter success.
Cantrell, Mark Alan, "Characteristics of a managed raccoon population in East Tennessee with an emphasis on summer dog training and fall harvest. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1989.