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Landscape composition and structure influence the abundance of mesopredators: implications for the control of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) variant of rabies

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Rabies propagation in Canada has forced wildlife managers to develop intervention strategies to reduce the risk of rabies epizootics. We assessed whether some landscape characteristics of a corn-dominated region of Quebec in which the raccoon variant of rabies (RVR) has spread were associated with the abundances of raccoons (Procyon lotor (L., 1758)) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis (Schreber, 1776)). We then examined whether landscape variables that best explained spatial variation in raccoon abundance were also good predictors in the detection of rabid raccoons. Between June and September 2007, 9600 raccoons and 1612 skunks were captured from 111 trapping cells. The abundance of captured raccoons, especially that of adult males and juveniles, increased over the summer in trapping cells characterized by a high density of forest edges bordering corn fields. The probability of detecting rabid raccoons also increased with this landscape characteristic, as well as with adult raccoon abundance. No landscape characteristic, however, explained spatial variation in skunk abundance. Efficient RVR control operations in similar landscapes should ideally include widespread distribution of vaccine baits because of the general distribution of skunks, while also focusing on areas where forest patches intersperse with corn fields to target high concentrations of raccoons, particularly in late summer.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre d’étude de la forêt, Département des Sciences du bois et de la forêt, Université Laval, 2405, rue de la Terrasse, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada. 2: Centre d’étude de la forêt, Département de biologie, 1045, avenue de la Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada. 3: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, Service de la biodiversité et des maladies de la faune, 880, chemin Sainte-Foy, 2e étage, Québec, QC G1S 4X4, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-11-26

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