Date of this Version
Scientific Reports (2023) 13:10447
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are routinely translocated both legally and illegally to mitigate conflicts with humans, which has contributed to the spread of rabies virus across eastern North America. The movement behavior of translocated raccoons has important ramifications for disease transmission yet remains understudied and poorly quantified. To examine the spatial ecology of raccoons following experimental translocation, we performed reciprocal 16 km-distance translocations of 30 raccoons between habitats of high and low raccoon density (bottomland hardwood and upland pine, respectively) across the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina, USA (2018–2019). Translocation influenced patterns of raccoon space use, with translocated animals exhibiting a 13-fold increase in 95% utilization distributions (UDs) post- compared to pre-translocation (mean 95% UD 35.8 ± 36.1 km2 vs 1.96 ± 1.17 km2). Raccoons originating from upland pine habitats consistently had greater space use and larger nightly movement distances post-translocation compared to raccoons moved from bottomland hardwood habitats, whereas these differences were generally not observed prior to translocation. Estimated home ranges of male raccoons were twice the area as estimated for female raccoons, on average, and this pattern was not affected by translocation. After a transient period lasting on average 36.5 days (SD = 30.0, range = 3.25–92.8), raccoons often resumed preexperiment movement behavior, with 95% UD sizes not different from those prior to translocation (mean = 2.27 ± 1.63km2). Most animals established new home ranges after translocation, whereas three raccoons moved > 16 km from their release point back to the original capture location. Four animals crossed a 100-m wide river within the SRS post-translocation, but this behavior was not documented among collared raccoons prior to translocation. Large increases in space use combined with the crossing of geographic barriers such as rivers may lead to elevated contact rates with conspecifics, which can heighten disease transmission risks following translocation. These results provide additional insights regarding the potential impacts of raccoon translocation towards population level risks of rabies outbreaks and underscore the need to discourage mesocarnivore translocations to prevent further spread of wildlife rabies.
Natural Resources and Conservation Commons, Natural Resources Management and Policy Commons, Other Environmental Sciences Commons, Other Veterinary Medicine Commons, Population Biology Commons, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology Commons, Veterinary Infectious Diseases Commons, Veterinary Microbiology and Immunobiology Commons, Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology, and Public Health Commons, Zoology Commons