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Raccoon Vigilance and Activity Patterns When Sympatric with Coyotes
Sep 10, 2020 08:23 ET
Nonconsumptive effects of predators potentially have negative fitness consequences on prey species through changes in prey behavior. Coyotes (Canis latrans) recently expanded into the eastern United States, and raccoons (Procyon lotor) are a common mesocarnivore that potentially serve as competitors and food for coyotes. We used camera traps at baited sites to quantify vigilance behavior of feeding raccoons and used binomial logistic regression to analyze the effects of social and environmental factors. Additionally, we created raccoon and coyote activity patterns from the camera trap data by fitting density functions based on circular statistics and calculating the coefficient of overlap (?). Overall, raccoons were vigilant 46% of the time while foraging at baited sites. Raccoons were more vigilant during full moon and diurnal hours but less vigilant as group size increased and when other species were present. Raccoons and coyotes demonstrated nocturnal activity patterns, with coyotes more likely to be active during daylight hours. Overall, raccoons did not appear to exhibit high levels of vigilance. Activity pattern results provided further evidence that raccoons do not appear to fear coyotes, as both species were active at the same time and showed a high degree of overlap (? = 0.75) with little evidence of temporal segregation in activity. Thus, our study indicates that nonconsumptive effects of coyotes on raccoons are unlikely, which calls into question the ability of coyotes to initiate strong trophic cascades through some mesocarnivores