We investigated the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic variables on overwinter survival of raccoons (Procyon lotor; n = 114) at the northern edge of their distribution. A Cox proportional hazard model identified winter severity as the variable with the greatest influence on raccoon survival (β = 1.08). Autumn body condition estimates (20.5 ± 0.46% total body fat) were relatively stable across years even though we observed large differences in autumn food indices. Variations in autumn body condition did not explain heterogeneity observed in overwinter survival nor the spring condition in which raccoons emerged. Relatively constant autumn body condition suggests reliable availability of anthropogenic food resources may negate variations observed in natural food items on which raccoons rely during hyperphagia. Conversely, spring body condition did vary among years and was highly correlated with winter severity. Accordingly, we also observed a strong inverse relationship with overwinter survival and winter severity. Our findings indicate winter climatic constraints are important factors governing the northern limit of raccoon distribution and changes in winter severity could have important implications in further range expansion of this species.
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