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Demographics, diet, movements, and survival of an isolated, unmanaged raccoon Procyon lotor (Procyonidae, Carnivora) population on the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are highly adaptable meso-carnivores that inhabit many environments, including the Atlantic barrier islands, where their role as predators of declining, beach-nesting bird and turtle species is of particular interest. Population models that improve our understanding of predator-prey dynamics are receiving increasing attention in the literature; however, their effective application requires site-specific information on population parameters. We studied an unharvested raccoon population on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and evaluated spatial and seasonal differences in a number of population/demographic factors of raccoons inhabiting areas of high and low human activity. Raccoons denned and foraged primarily in salt marsh habitats but shifted their movements in response to changes in seasonal resource conditions. The population was skewed toward older animals and exhibited delayed breeding, typical of populations at high density with few sources of mortality. Diet and movement analysis indicated shorebird and turtle predation was attributed to a small number of individual raccoons. Although seasonal resources appeared adequate to sustain a high population density of raccoons, poor body condition and low recruitment suggested a population near carrying capacity.
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