Rural System's

RRx
The Raccoon Resource

Toward the fullness of the raccoon resource ...

Prescription

1. The raccoon population needs to be kept in balance with the land owners' multiple objectives and carefully managed to achieve them wih profits.
2. Use the procedures suggested below and in support publications.
3. Have hunting dogs evaluated.
4. Work with Rural System to achieve a system of diverse benefits from the resource, both financial and ecological.
5. Join and support the Raccoon Group.

Information and Diagnoses

The group of animals with great appeal and with unexploited financial potentials is one for intensive management, the furbearers. A rich variety of these animals lives on the area -- raccoons, beaver, weasel, mink, and others. These need management since they can compromise other management objectives but they can also be changed into a profitable managerial enterprise. They have very different appeal and interest to many people and can be much sought as game but also as a vertegrate pest, disease vector, and major component of a mature ecosystem. Their status as an omnivore presents interesting parasitological and nutritional questions potentially related to understanding the human food consumption and health.

Extensive research results on the raccoon can be brought, helping to show a superior, operating total resource system for one species,not only to furs but also several types of hunting. Much research has been done on them, but much, much more is needed and few people realize the complexity and relations of their system and that of other components of Rural System lands. The need is for some of the most intense, far-reaching research being done on them anywhere in the world. It should not be on the biology of the animal alone (the past trend) but on them as center of a total profitable enterprise. Agencies have waited for funds but none (to our knowledge) have stabilized an intensive management system including feedback and future predictions. The prospects are not for recreational trapping (strongly opposed by some) but for a viable, profitable enterprise utilizing one of the natural products of the Rural System areas ... in ways no one else has been able to sustain in the past.

Profits from a fur enterprise are a primary interest. The strategies include marketing of furs; strategic buying; improvements in trapper success and humane taking; improved care of the pelts; storage; local cutting and trimming; alternative uses of partials; and alternative uses of the entire carcass. Fur markets seem to fluctuate due to style and other phenomena. We propose to work with the fur industry, seek new marketing strategies, avoid public confrontations, retain a private-for-profit stance, diversify the work of the group, and demonstrate the potentials of storage to achieve sale when prices are high.

Furs are a primary interest. The strategies include marketing; strategic buying; improvements in trapper success and humane taking; improved care of the pelts; storage; local cutting and trimming; alternative uses of partials; and alternative uses of the entire carcass.

The work is in local, highly synthetic activity, linking ecological succession in all communities and types to the many species commonly known as furbearers. Even if no furs are ever taken or sold, the number of large, difficult-to-see, top-of-the-food-web animals is very important to the ecology of the area and must be mastered. The rodent-, predator-, grass-, deer-coyote system is an example of a small, conspicuous system that needs knowledge and management.

Work will include sophisticated research (expected to attract visitors and students); furbearer workshops for state and federal biologists; trapper schools; vertebrate pest damage manager schools; fur-buyer schools. Software development will enhance some work, especially as it shows how communities (that support each furbearer) change over time. Trapping zones, presence of animal sign, species conflicts, profit per unit area, costs-to-take maps, are planned elements of the system. Visitors and members may come to the area with the planned objective of seeing and photographing all of the furbearers present. (A newsletter announces the successful people, tells of research accomplishments, shares in knowledge of the furbearers, provides excellent photographs, poems, new book suggestions and other natural history information of interest. Close links are built with Nature Folks.

Where feasible, funds for special projects will be sought from federal and state research fund pools but for the first 5 years,the work is in local, highly synthetic activity, linking ecological succession in all communities and types to the many species commonly known as furbearers. Even if no furs are ever taken or sold, the number of large, difficult-to-see, top-of-the-food-web animals is very important to the ecology of the areas and the streams there and must be mastered. The rodent-, predator-, grass-, deer-coyote system is an example of a small, conspicuous system that needs knowledge and management. That of the raccoon - food supply - erosion control - healthy stream - cattle watering - cattle growth system also needs to be voiced.

Managerial Elements

To encourage use of the area by racoons, we will attempt to maintain permanent ponds or streams, provide fruit and mast, leave den trees, and protect them from intense hunting pressure and harassment by dogs to maintain a stable population.

Raccoon stocking will not take place on the area, since such programs are usually expensive and usually ineffective. Habitat manipulation and population protection will generally produce the desired results at low cost.

Raccoon stocking is not a viable alternative in producing huntable raccoon populations. Harvest and hunter control measures may be necessary, however, not only to prevent the extermination of the animal in localized areas, but to allow for a natural increase in population.

Hunting and dog training restrictions must be strictly enforced. These activities should be limited to a maximum of three nights a week. Continual harassment by hunters and dogs will eventually result in the loss of part or all of the population through migration or death. The importance of den trees should be impressed upon hunters and their destruction (e.g., for taking a treed racoon) should be strictly prohibited.

Food

Raccoons' main food, invertebrates and amphibians, will be provided naturally in the streams or in shallow marshes and ponds which will be created. Mast (tree nuts and fruits) for fall and winter food and fruits and berries for summer and fall food will be provided by the shrubs and grasses to be planted. Year around food supply is the often-forgotten requirement. Raccoons will take advantage of corn in nearby cornfields when available.

Cover

Existing very mature trees, especially maples and oaks, will be left in the stands of timber surrounding crop and pasture areas. These trees when they attain the age and size to develop suitable cavities are the den sites ... the most important cover requirement. In addition, maples, oaks, and apple trees will be planted to provide den trees in the future. The den trees are usually found in stands of timber where they have been left during logging operations, either because they were not worth removing or because of their value to various wildlife species.

Cover improvement measures include protecting and maintaining den trees and developing or maining forest cover along watercourses. Maintaining large dead and down logs helps supply certain foods. A minimum of one den tree per 10 acres should be maintained. Frequently, den trees may develop from trees left along fence rows or watercourses, or on hillsides to prevent soil erosion. Old apple trees on abandoned farmlands may serve as ideal raccoon dens. Where natural dens are lacking, artificial den boxes will be supplied. Boxes for this purpose will be made of 1-inch thick lumber, and will be 14 inches square by 36 inches high, with a waterproof roof and a hole 4 by 6 inches next to the roof. These den boxes will be placed 25 to 40 feet above the ground.

Any process that creates or stabilizes a water supply is likely to improve habitat conditions for raccoon. Creating small ponds (e.g., along mine benches and rural roads, erosion channels, and oxbows) will increase raccoon food supplies.Livestock use of ponds is not compatible with good raccoon management. Muddy water creates a nearly sterile condition and produces little food for raccoons. If food appears to be a limiting factor, corn can be planted in patches near a watercourse where animals naturally feed.

The financial base of the system will come from schools, club memberships, tours, individual guests on the area, volunteer work (in-kind salary equivalents), furbearer workshops for state and federal biologists; trapper schools ;fur-buyer schools; paid evening raccoon-related events,publications, photo opportunities (for a fee), art commissions, sale of harvested products (glands, bones, biological instruction kits). Sophisticated research is expected to attract visitors and students. Hunting dog contests and certificationsNew products and services of the Pest Force and vertebrate pest damage manager schools may become available. A link will be made with the night-time activities of the Owls Group of Nature Folks. volunteer work (in-kind salary equivalents),


Software development will enhance some work, especially as it shows how ecological communities (that support each furbearer) change over time. Trapping zones, presence of animal sign, species conflicts, profit per unit area, and costs-to-take maps are planned elements of the system. Members may come to the areas with the planned objective of seeing and photographing all of the furbearers present (as in birdwatching life-list building). A newsletter announces the successful people, tells of research accomplishments, shares in knowledge of the furbearers, and provides excellent photographs, poems, new book suggestions, and other natural history information of interest.

Links with dog owners need to be made. Close links are built with the night-time activities and interests of the owls and other groups of Nature Folks


Perhaps you will share ideas with Rural System staff about some of the topics above.

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Revisions: May 27, 2010; February 7, 2011