Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

Ralph W. Dimmick, John C. Rennie, Mary Sue Younger


Raccoons were studied on the Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area and State Forest (CSWMA) from 1981-1990. CSWMA is a 9,872 ha peninsula managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) and Tennessee Division of Forestry. A control (2,588 ha), experimental (2,545 ha), and "remaining hunted area" (RHA) (4,739 ha) were established and received respective treatments of livetrapping only, livetrapping and harvest, and harvest only. Livetrapping was initiated in 1981 and continued through 1990. Quota hunts were reinstated m 1984 and were monitored through 1990. Objectives of this study were to summarize and evaluate the ecology and population dynamics of raccoons on CSWMA and to evaluate the impacts of managed quota hunts on the raccoon population. Since 1981, 992 raccoons were captured 3,171 times. Mean trapping success was 16.8 and 13.8 raccoons per 100 trapnights on the control and experimental areas, respectively, and were significantly different (p=0.0006). Trapping success varied by year (p<0.0001) and month (p<0.0001). Raccoons were captured more frequently (p=0.0139) on the control area than on the experimental area. Male raccoons were captured a greater number of times than females (p=0.0598). The overall sex ratio was significantly (p< 0.0001) skewed towards males on the experimental area (155:100) but not (p=0.1375) on the control area (114:100); there was a higher proportion of males on the experimental area than on the control area (p=0.0200). Since 1984, a total of 757 raccoons were harvested for an overall success rate of 66.3%. Under the current (1988-1990) system of harvest (6 nights and hunter quotas), mean harvest intensity on the experimental area was 2.53 raccoons per 100 ha or 36.5% of the estimated population; more data are needed before this level of harvest can be considered sustainable. The overall percentage of juveniles in the harvest was 29.0% (range IQ. 1-40.1%) and varied by year (p=0.0001). The percentage of juveniles in the harvest increased as the harvest intensity increased. The sex ratio of harvested raccoons was significantly (p=0.0088) skewed towards females. Weights of adult raccoons varied by month (p<0.0001) and sex (p< 0.0001); mean harvest weights were 5.05 and 4.41 kg for males and females, respectively, and varied by year (p< 0.0001) and sex (p=0.0009). Mean weights of harvested juveniles were 2.64 and 2.47 kg for males and females, respectively, and varied by year (p=0.0305) and sex (p=0.0124). Dates of parturition ranged from April to August with 81.0% of births occurring during the last 2 weeks of May and first 2 weeks of June. Mean litter size during 1984-1990 was 2.1 young per breeding female and varied by year (p=0.0408) but not by age class (p =0.1088). Refined natality during 1984-1990 was 1.3 young per adult female and varied by age class (p<0.0001) but not by year (p=0.5425). Excluding age class II raccoons (15-38 months), the mean pregnancy rate was 82.0%; the mean pregnancy rate for age class II raccoons was only 37.1%. Yearlings contributed very little, if any, to annual recruitment. The oldest confirmed age for a raccoon on CSWMA was 12.5 years. On the control area, 7.5% of males and 32.1% of females captured during 1981-1985 had capture histories that exceeded 60 months; 1.5% of males and 11.9% of females captured during 1981-1983 were still alive 85 months after their initial capture. On the was was experimenial area, 7.4% of males and 21.2% of females raccoons captured during , 1981-1985 had capture histories that exceeded 60 months; 0.7% of males and 1.0% of females raccoons captured during 1981-1983 were still alive 85 months after their initial capture. Juvenile survival from September to March was at least 45.2 and 60.3% for male and female raccoons, respectively; the disparity between males and females attributed to dispersal and/or increased mortality of males. The Jolly-Seber population estimator violated the fewest assumptions and determined to be the best estimator for CSWMA. Densities ranged from 1 raccoon per 7.2-16.8 ha on the control area and 1 raccoon per 9.9-18.9 ha on the experimental area. The control area was unable to sustain a density of 1 raccoon per 7.2 ha in 1988 and underwent a substantial population decline in 1989 and 1990. Raccoon densities on CSWMA were substantially higher than those found in other parts of east Tennessee. Upland hardwood habitat typical of much of east Tennessee is capable of providing quality raccoon hunting while maintaining sustained yields. However, current levels of hunting pressure in open counties of east Tennessee will probably continue to keep raccoon densities below those found on CSWMA.

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