Raccoons (Procyon lotor) frequently establish defecation sites, termed latrines, on large logs, stumps, rocks, and other horizontally oriented structures/surfaces. These latrines are important foci of infective eggs of Baylisascaris procyonis, a nematode parasite of raccoons which is pathogenic to numerous species of mammals and birds. To examine the role of raccoon latrines in this animal-parasite interaction, we documented animal visitations to raccoon latrines in two large forested tracts and two woodlots in Indiana (USA) during 1994 and 1995. Species richness of vertebrate visitors did not differ between sites or years, but species composition differed by site and year. Fourteen mammal and 15 bird species were documented visiting raccoon latrines. Small granivorous mammals, including white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), and tree squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis, S. niger, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were the most common visitors to latrine sites. White-footed mice, chipmunks, white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), and opossums (Didelphis virginiana) were photographed foraging on undigested seeds in raccoon feces. Active foraging at latrines also was shown experimentally; seeds embedded in raccoon feces were removed at a greater rate at latrine sites than at nonlatrines. We conclude that raccoon latrines are visited routinely by a variety of vertebrates, especially small granivorous rodents and birds which forage for seeds in raccoon feces, and that raccoon latrines are probable sites of transmission of B. procyonis to susceptible mammals and birds.
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Vol. 35 • No. 3