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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Raccoon Rabies Research Using Remote Download GPS Collars in an Urban Environment


In 2004, raccoon variant rabies moved westward from Pennsylvania into Ohio. In an effort to prevent further spread across Ohio, USDA Wildlife Services expanded the Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) boundary west toward Cleveland. To assist the Wildlife Services ORV Program to better understand how rabies might move through an urban area, and to help develop the best vaccination strategy to stop its spread, researchers at the USDA National Wildlife Research Center initiated a series of studies. As part of these studies, we deployed 10 remote download GPS collars on raccoons in urban areas of Cleveland. Remote download GPS collars offer advantages and disadvantages over traditional VHF telemetry and conventional “store on board” GPS collars, particularly in urban environments. Raccoons may inhabit culverts or sewer pipes that are inaccessible to humans. As a result, collars programmed to drop off may be lost and the data never recovered. Remote download capability allows researchers to retrieve data without collecting the collar. However, remote download collars tend to be larger and bulkier than other models. Out of 10 collars deployed, 1 went missing within a day of deployment, a second stopped transmitting after 5 months, and one raccoon died (this collar was recovered and later re-deployed). Data collection of nightly locations from 8 collars is ongoing. Locations are downloaded every 5 weeks. Data collected to date suggests raccoons are restricting their space use to small green-spaces when available, but also may inhabit abandoned houses. We believe this research represents the first use of remote download GPS collars on raccoons.

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