The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program has conducted cooperative oral rabies vaccination (ORV) programs since 1997. Understanding the eco-epidemiology of raccoon (Procyon lotor) variant rabies (raccoon rabies) is critical to successful management. Pine (Pinus spp.)-dominated landscapes generally support low relative raccoon densities that may inhibit rabies spread. However, confounding landscape features, such as wetlands and human development, represent potentially elevated risk corridors for rabies spread, possibly imperiling enhanced rabies surveillance and ORV planning. Raccoon habitat suitability in pine-dominated landscapes in Massachusetts, Florida, and Alabama was modeled by the maximum entropy (Maxent) procedure using raccoon presence, and landscape and environmental data. Replicated (n = 100/state) bootstrapped Maxent models based on raccoon sampling locations from 2012–2014 indicated that soil type was the most influential variable in Alabama (permutation importance PI = 38.3), which, based on its relation to landcover type and resource distribution and abundance, was unsurprising. Precipitation (PI = 46.9) and temperature (PI = 52.1) were the most important variables in Massachusetts and Florida, but these possibly spurious results require further investigation. The Alabama Maxent probability surface map was ingested into Circuitscape for conductance visualizations of potential areas of habitat connectivity. Incorporating these and future results into raccoon rabies containment and elimination strategies could result in significant cost-savings for rabies management here and elsewhere.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Thanks are owed to USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services employees Bradley Hicks, Robert Hale, Jordona Kirby, and Ashlee Martin (NRMP); Frank Boyd, Dana Johnson, David Beaty, Jackie Malone, Tonya Mallin, and Timothy (Scott) Wease (AL), Betsy Haley (FL); Odin Stephens (GA); Monte Chandler, Brian Bjorklund, Ryan Bevilacqua, and Randall Mickley (MA/CT/RI); Jacob Borgeson (NH/VT); Eric Wilhelm and Brandon Hofer (VA); Wendy Anderson, Matthew Swallow, and Adam Randall (NJ); and Luke Harvard (GA). We also thank the staffs of Myles Standish State Forest (MA Department of Forest and Parks) and the Massachusetts Military Reservation; Wharton State Forest (NJ Division of Parks and Forestry), and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife; and The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Alabama Resource Management Services; and the Apalachicola National Forest (USDA Forest Service).
© 2017 by the authors.
- Circuit theory
- Habitat suitability
- Procyon lotor
- Risk model