SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • age structure;
  • carnivore;
  • demography;
  • fragmentation;
  • mesopredator;
  • nest predation;
  • placental scars;
  • population dynamics;
  • Procyon lotor;
  • rabies

Abstract

Despite their behavioral plasticity, recent research suggests raccoons (Procyon lotor) exhibit variability in demography and genetic structure among individual habitat patches in landscapes heavily affected by anthropogenic land use. Consequently, elucidation of vital rates at fine-spatial scales is needed to implement appropriate management strategies for this species. To evaluate the degree of variability in productivity that exists among individual habitat patches, we collected reproductive (n = 170) and cementum annuli age data (n = 383) for raccoons occupying 30 forest patches varying in local and landscape-level habitat attributes within a highly fragmented agricultural ecosystem. Across all females sampled, pregnancy rates averaged 85% but were highly variable among ages (range: 47–100%). Average litter sizes ranged from 3.2 to 4.7, but did not differ as a function of age. At the landscape-level, we observed significant variability among habitat patches in the total number of offspring produced (range: 0–80), indicating that individual patches vary in their contribution to the overall size and stability of the global (landscape-level) population. Variability in productivity among habitat patches primarily was driven by local differences in the availability of denning resources, likely because of the influence of this variable on variability in the number, age structure, and reproductive rate of females. Our results suggest that in agricultural ecosystems, the reproductive potential and temporal stability of raccoons within individual habitat fragments is inextricably linked to the density of tree cavities. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.