Home ranges of raccoon dogs in managed and natural areas
Knowledge of space use is central to understand animals’ role in ecosystems. The raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides is considered as one of the most influential alien mesopredator species in Europe, having the potential to cause loss of local biodiversity and act as a vector for zoonotic diseases. We collared 12 animals to study their home range and habitat use in two areas with different management regimes in Estonia: in a protected natural area and in an intensively managed area. From May to October raccoon dogs inhabiting the natural area had considerably smaller home ranges compared to the managed area, 193.3ha±37.3SD and 391.9ha±292.9SD, respectively. This result contradicts somewhat earlier findings in other European raccoon dog populations, where the home range sizes in natural areas in summer and autumn period have usually been larger compared to managed areas. In both study areas raccoon dogs preferred watersides, where amphibians and other semi-aquatic prey are abundant, to other habitats available in their home ranges. We also studied movements of a raccoon dog pair in the managed study area in winter period. Due to mild weather conditions during the study period, raccoon dogs changed their resting sites quite often, covering a relatively large 599 ha area from November 2012 to January 2013, indicating the absence of usual winter lethargy during the mild winters.