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Use of roadkill data to index and relate raccoon activity at a heavily predated, hghdensity marine turtle nesting beach

Richard M. Engeman, National Wildlife Research Center
Henry T. Smith, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Park Services
William J.B. Miller, Florida Park Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Document Type Article

Published in Endangered Species UPDATE


Four years of data from a high-density marine turtle nesting beach at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, Florida were examined along with data on raccoon road-kills from adjacent roads, and data on park attendance (as an index of local traffic) to make inferences about raccoon activity patterns relative to turtle nesting. Raccoon road-klls were found to diminish substantially during turtle nesting, even though local traffic was constant or increasing. Opossums, the only other mammal consistently found as road-kills, did not show a decrease during turtle nesting season, but they are not known as a primary predator of turtle nests. We concluded that during turtle nesting raccoons are drawn to the beach to prey on the abundant nesting raccoons food resource of turtle eggs, and they do not leave the beach until the end of turtle nesting season. High numbers of raccoon road-kills during the fall-winter, followed by a decrease in the spring around the start of turtle nesting season, might be used as indicators to initiate management actions to protect turtle nests.