Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Major

Biology, Ecology

Date of Defense

11-18-2010

Graduate Advisor

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez

Co-Advisor

Loiselle, Bette

Committee

Asa, Cheryl

Abstract

Urban development fragments the natural landscape and, as a result, remaining natural habitats, which are much reduced in size, are island-like and often embedded in an inhospitable matrix. While these changes are generally considered to have a negative impact on wildlife, the process of urbanization also creates new habitats in which some species appear to thrive despite the altered conditions and increased human density. The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is an ideal model for investigating the effects of urbanization on spatial patterns of habitat use because they are known to inhabit all landscapes along the urban to rural gradient. When studying wildlife in urban environments the techniques used need to be validated as urban ecology is a new field. Besides being good models for urban studies, raccoons can serve as ideal subjects to design studies that validate telemetry data in urban environments. This study had two objectives: 1) to evaluate the accuracy of telemetry in an urban setting; 2) to determine how the distribution and abundance of resources and habitat affect the home range of raccoons in a diverse urban park. A combination of radio telemetry and geographical information systems (GIS) was used in this study. To validate the telemetry system 33 known locations were evenly distributed by habitat type to calculate mean error, bias and precision. In the raccoon portion of the study, telemetry locations were collected on 10 female raccoon for one year. Home range size and placement, as well as overlap with resources and habitats were calculated. To our knowledge this is the first study to attempt to quantify telemetry accuracy in an urban area. Signal reflection & electronic noise appear to cause telemetry error at the study site. Raccoon home ranges were small and stable with considerable overlap; however core home ranges were not clustered. Anthropogenic food sources were strongly associated with home range, and raccoons showed a preference for the mixed habitat type. These data add to our understanding of the challenges of working in urban areas while contributing new information on the ecology of urban raccoons.

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