Seasonal body condition and space use of urban raccoons

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While urbanization poses challenges to wildlife, it also provides anthropogenic resources that can be exploited by human-tolerant species. One species that is adept at using urban resources is the raccoon (Procyon lotor). Commonly found throughout cities in North America and parts of Europe and Asia, raccoons can use refuse to supplement their natural diets and human structures (e.g., attics, garages) as resting sites. To examine how urban resources may influence the body condition and behavior of highly urban wildlife, we trapped 152 (90 male, 62 female) adult raccoons from three sites across Chicago’s urbanization gradient between October 2014 and January 2017. Morphometrics were used to calculate body mass indices (BMIs) and a subset of raccoons were tracked via VHF (n=12) or GPS (n=7) radiocollars. While male and female BMIs varied seasonally (p< 0.01), only female BMIs varied by location (p<0.001). Male and female home range sizes were similar on average (males: 27.295±11.483 ha; females: 20.002 ± 9.621 ha) but, when the proportion of unnatural habitat within each home range was considered as a secondary factor, males had larger home ranges than females (p=0.04). The use of anthropogenic den sites and food sources were commonly observed during the study. Regardless of how much unnatural space was used, however, raccoons consistently remained within 500m of a green space. Close proximities to more “natural” habitats suggest that, while they do use anthropogenic resources, urban wildlife still rely on green spaces for persistence. Additionally, since raccoons tend to be drawn toward particular resources (e.g., structurally damaged garages), identifying and removing attractants could be a key way to manage raccoon activity.


Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (FAES): 1st Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)


home range, body condition, habitat use, urbanization, raccoon