Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

North Carolina Project

Ecology of raccoons within Cape Lookout National Seashore, NC, and the efficacy of raccoon removal as a management tool for protecting rare, threatened, and endangered species

May 2006 - June 2011


Participating Agencies


To date, relatively little published scientific information is available on raccoon populations inhabiting Atlantic barrier islands, suggesting that additional research is warranted. Although removal of predators like raccoons is still carried out at some sites (e.g., national wildlife refuges) to protect T&E species and is listed as a viable action in the recovery plans for some T&E species, the long-term efficacy of the technique remains questionable. In this study, researchers propose to gather basic ecological data on raccoons on South Core Banks, Cape Lookout National Seashore (CALO) (e.g., home range size, movement patterns, demographics), remove some raccoons from the population, and assess the effects on the ecology of the remaining population and the response of nesting sea turtles and shorebirds. The intent of the removal work is three-fold: 1) determine if the incidence of predation on T&E species declines post-removal, 2) determine the extent and timing of future predation events from areas where raccoons were removed, and 3) assess the impact of removal of raccoons on another prey species (e.g., ghost crabs). Finally, as part of this effort researchers will recommend a science-based management plan and a monitoring protocol that will allow the NPS to measure changes in the distribution and abundance of raccoons at Cape Lookout National Seashore. Objectives: The objectives of this project can be placed into two broad categories: understanding raccoon ecology on coastal islands and understanding the efficacy of raccoon removal as a tool for managing threatened and endangered sea turtles and ground-nesting shorebirds and terns. Research will involve an evaluation of basic raccoon ecology by identifying rest areas, den and nest sites, and local movement patterns, and by estimating key demographic rates such as age-specific survival and fecundity. Researchers will also evaluate how removing raccoons from this environment affects the abundance and productivity of endangered and threatened prey species and ghost crabs, and the ecology of raccoons that remain in the system. They will accomplish this by initiating a program to monitor T&E species abundance and productivity after raccoon removal, and by initiating a program to monitor the response of the reduced raccoon population and the response of non-target prey.