Today, the species has been widely introduced. It is now widespread in northern and eastern Europe, thriving in moist forests with abundant undergrowth. The northern limit of distribution lies in areas where the mean temperature of the year is just above 0Â°C, the snow cover about 800 mm, the duration of the snow cover 175 days and the length of the growing season 135 days (for example, in Finland the northern limit of permanent distribution is between 65Â°N and the Arctic Circle). If winters become milder, the raccoon dog may expand its range northwards.
Nyctereutes procyonoides is native to eastern Siberia, northern China, North Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Between 1927 and 1957, the fur-farming industry introduced from 4,000 to 9,000 raccoon dogs to the European and Asian U.S.S.R. Today, N. procyonoides is widespread throughout northern and western Europe in countries including Finland, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, France, Austria, and Hungary.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Introduced , Native )
- Sheldon, J. 1992. Wild Dogs : The Natural History of the Nondomestic Canidae . San Diego: Academic Press.
- Ward, O., D. Wurster-Hill. 1990. Mammalian Species: Nyctereutes procyonoides . The American Society of Mammalogists, No. 358: 1-5. Accessed February 02, 2004 at http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/.
Nyctereutes procyonoides has the appearance of a small fox-like canid with the fur markings similar to those of raccoons (Procyon lotor). They have small heads (greatest length 133 mm) with pointed, low-profile rostra. The dental formula is i 3/3, c 1/1, p 4/4, m 2 or 3/3, total 42 or 44. Raccoon dogs have reduced carnassials and relatively large molars. Height ranges from 38.1 to 50.8 cm. Length from head to rump is 50 to 68 cm with a tail length of 13 to 25 cm. Legs are short, and overall the body is stocky. Body weight ranges from 4 to 6 kg in the summer to 6 to 10 kg in the winter before hibernation. On average, individuals in Europe tend to be larger than those in China and Japan. The existence of several subspecies of N. procyonoides may account for this discrepancy. Mass of adult females in China and Japan is 0.5kg greater than males.
The fur of N. procyonoides is dense and soft. Markings on the head include a white muzzle, white face, and black fur surrounding the eyes. A black marking runs across both shoulders and down the back, forming the shape of a cross. Ears are rounded and short; black hair one the ears trims the white hair inside. Body color is dusky brown to yellow-brown dorsally but varies greatly. Long guard hairs, found throughout the dorsal side, are tipped black. On the belly, the fur is lighter brown or tan. Limbs and chest are blackish-brown. Raccoon dogs have thick, bushy tails that are black dorsally and light-yellow ventrally with a black tip. Winter pelage is thicker and darker than summer pelage.
Nyctereutes procyonoides goes through a molt in the summer between July and October. The winter pelage grows in during September, October, and November. Raccoon dogs also have a spring molt that begins in April when the underfur is shed. The summer coat is in by mid-June.
Range mass: 4 to 10 kg.
Range length: 50 to 68 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Habitat and Ecology
In the introduced range, Raccoon Dogs favour moist forests and shores of rivers and lakes, especially in early summer (Korneev 1954; Nasimovic and Isakov 1985; Kauhala 1996). In late summer and autumn, they favour moist heaths with abundant berries (Morozov 1947; Kauhala 1996). In the Finnish archipelago, however, they favour barren pine forests where they feed on crowberries (Empetrum nigrum) (Kauhala and Auniola 2000).
Nyctereutes procyonoides is found in subarctic and subtropical climates. It prefers forest, forest borders, or dense vegetation— areas of thick underbrush, marshes, and reedbeds— for dense cover. Regions bordering water are also favored. Raccoon dogs are found from near sea level to greater than 3,000 m. Nyctereutes procyonoides also has been known to encroach upon human habitats while scavenging for food.
Range elevation: 0 to 3000 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; polar ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; riparian
- Ward, O., D. Wurster-Hill. 1989. Ecological studies of Japanese raccoon dogs, Nyctereutes procyonoides. Journal of Mammalogy, 70: 330-334.
Nyctereutes procyonoides is an opportunistic omnivore. On land, it hunts insects, small rodents, amphibians, birds, and eggs. It also fishes in lakes, rivers, and streams using its paws to scoop prey out of the water. It also dives underwater in search for its meal. In addition, raccoon dogs eat mollusks, snakes, and lizards; on the seashore, crabs, sea urchins, and sea carrion are also consumed.
Raccoon dogs also eat plant material— including stems, roots, leaves, bulbs, fruits, nuts berries, and seeds— according to the season and location. During the fall, they eat mainly vegetables, including a variety of fruits, wild berries, and seeds such as oats. In the winter, when food sources are limited, they may survive on human garbage and carrion. In Japan, raccoon dogs rely heavily on garbage, insects, fish, crabs, and plants such as buckthorn (Rhamnus), hornbeam (Carpinus), and a shrub (Aucuba japonica). In Finland, during the summers, they rely on small mammals (Mus musculus), plants, and amphibians; during the winter, they rely on carrion, small mammals, and plants.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; carrion ; insects; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans; echinoderms
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Raccoon dogs are an important food source for various larger canids as well as humans. They are also responsible for controlling insect and rodent populations, but, because they are generalists, they do not affect any one species on a large scale. Nyctereutes procyonoides is prone to infections including mange, rabies, piroplasmosis, and helminths.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Not much is known about the antipredator adaptations of N. procyonoides. Wolves, lynx, wolverines, martens, golden eagles, sea eagles, eagle owls, and domestic dogs are all predators of this species. In the former U.S.S.R. and Finland, humans are also major predators of raccoon dogs. Raccoon dogs are used for commercial trapping and fur farming by humans. In Japan, raccoon dogs are also eaten by humans.
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
Nyctereutes procyonoides uses latrines to communicate with other members of the species. A latrine is a definite site where an entire group of raccoon dogs will both urinate and defecate. Research has suggested that raccoon dogs use the latrine for information exchange among family members as well strangers. The animals modify their behavior based on olfactory recognition of conspecific individuals when they encounter one another.
Raccoon dogs are vocal canids. However, they do not, like all other representatives of the order, bark. They may whine, whimper, or mew; these are all responses coupled with friendly or submissive behavior. They may growl when frightened or when being aggressive.
In addition to scent cues and vocal communication, these animals use some body postures--such as tail position--to indicate dominance and readiness to mate. Tactile communication if probably important between parents and offspring, as well as between mates.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic
- Yamamoto, I. 1984. Latrine Utilization and Feces Recognition in the Raccoon Dog. Journal of Ethology, 2: 47-54.
The lifespan of N. procyonoides in the wild is not known. In a study of trapped animals, the oldest males were in an age class of 5.5 years, and the oldest females were in an age clasee of 7.5 years. Of 320 raccoon dogs captured, 68.4% of the population was younger adults. In captivity, longevity can be greater than 14 years.
Status: wild: 7.5 (high) years.
Status: captivity: >14 (high) years.
Status: wild: 11.0 years.
Status: captivity: 7.0 years.
Status: captivity: 10.7 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Not much is known about the mating behavior of N. procyonoides. Studies have shown that raccoon dogs form mating pairs from year to year, and monogamy among pairs has been reported in raccoon dogs found in Finland. In regions of home-range overlap, pairs do not interact. Polygamy has been reported in captive individuals.
During mating, females are courted by 3 to 4 males. There is little fighting among males for mates. In captivity, both scent marking and male-female interaction increased during proestrus. Pair bonds form before copulation and remain until after offspring have become independent. An inverted U-shaped tail posture in males is associated sexual arousal and expresses dominance. After pairs mate and the female gives birth, males and females spend a significant amount of time together raising the pups.
Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous
Females come into heat once a year, after hibernation. Data from raccoon dogs in captivity show that estrus lasts from 3 to 5 days. Copulation occurs at the end of the cold part of winter in January, February, or March, depending on geographic location. Copulation ties are an average of 6 minutes. Gestation period ranges from 59 to 64 days. Nyctereutes procyonoides usually gives birth in dense vegetation or in burrows that have been abandoned by foxes or badgers. Average litter size is 5 to 7, with the highest of 19 pups reported. Pups are born blind and have soft, black fur. Weight ranges from 60 to 115 g at birth depending on subspecies. Between the 9th and 10th day, pups' eyes open and teeth are visible by 14 to 16 days. Mothers wean their pups between 30 to 40 days of age. At this time, the typical face mask and the guard hairs are fully developed. Mass and size increase in a linear fashion until 50 to 60 days. Offspring are the size of small adults at 80 to 85 days of age. The offspring will reach sexual maturity at 9 to 11 months.
Breeding interval: Nyctereutes procyonoides breeds only once per year.
Breeding season: Mating in raccoon dogs occurs in January, February or March and coincides with early spring.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 19.
Average number of offspring: 6.33.
Range gestation period: 59 to 64 days.
Average gestation period: 61 days.
Range weaning age: 30 to 70 days.
Range time to independence: 4 to 5 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 to 11 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9 to 11 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 75 g.
Average number of offspring: 6.
During late pregnancy, a female’s mate brings her food. After she gives birth, the male also has a role in postnatal care. The young are weaned at 30 to 40 days; the male typically watches over them while the female hunts for food. The male may also hunt while the female watches the young. At 4 months, the pups begin learning how to hunt by watching their parents. In a short time, they are self-supporting although they may remain with their parents, and hunt as a family, until the fall. At that point, they are independent. Between 9 to 11 months the offspring will have reached sexual maturity.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Protecting: Male); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents
- Kauhala, K., E. Helle, K. Taskinen. 1993. Home range of the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) in southern Finland. Journal of Zoology, 231: 95-106.
- Sheldon, J. 1992. Wild Dogs : The Natural History of the Nondomestic Canidae . San Diego: Academic Press.
- Ward, O., D. Wurster-Hill. 1990. Mammalian Species: Nyctereutes procyonoides . The American Society of Mammalogists, No. 358: 1-5. Accessed February 02, 2004 at http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Nyctereutes procyonoides
No available public DNA sequences.
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Nyctereutes procyonoides
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2004Least Concern
Nyctereutes procyonoides is not an endangered species.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
conducted in the latter country, but indirect indices (e.g., road-kills per km of the National Expressways and harvest
density per prefecture), suggest that relative abundance is high in south-western parts of Japan (i.e., Kyushu, Shikoku, and Chugoku) and low in Hokkaido, Chubu, and extremely urban areas (M. Saeki and D.W. Macdonald
unpubl.). See also Sillero-Zubiri et al. (2004; Table 5.4.2).
The Russians introduced Raccoon Dogs into the wild in the European part of the former Soviet Union because they wanted to establish a valuable new fur animal in the wild. Raccoon Dog furs continue to be commercially sold, although today they are produced in fur farms. While the species is still commonly farmed for fur in Finland, Raccoon Dogs are no longer farmed in Sweden (J.-O. Helldin pers. comm.) or Hungary, where the last fur farm was closed in 1995 (M. Heltai pers. comm.). In Japan, Raccoon Dog fur is also used in the production of calligraphic brushes, stuffed animals, and other products.
Raccoon dogs occur in national parks and other wildlife protection areas in Japan, where hunting and some other activities are prohibited. Raccoon dogs occur in national parks also in Finland (although they are hunted in some parks). Elsewhere across their range, they occur in numerous protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries.
In many countries where the Raccoon Dog is legally hunted, hunting is permitted year round (e.g., Sweden, Hungary and Poland). However, in Finland, females with pups are protected in May, June and July, and in Belarus hunting is allowed from 1 October to the end of February. In Japan, hunting/trapping of the species requires a licence or other form of permission and can only occur within the designated hunting season (November 15 to February 15). The raccoon dog on Mukojima island (18.4 kmÂ²), Hiroshima prefecture, is designated as a natural monument under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, and permission from the Director-General of the Agency of Cultural Affairs is required for capturing the animals on the island.
There have been no conservation measures developed for the raccoon dog to date.
In Japan, around 40 zoos hold captive animals and successful breeding has been reported (e.g., Kobe Municipal Zoo). Captive raccoon dogs still exist on fur farms in Finland.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Raccoon dogs are capable of living in areas close to humans. They are often exterminated because they are carriers of diseases that can be trasmitted to humans and other animals. They are also killed for preying on small-game animals and other wildlife.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease); causes or carries domestic animal disease
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Japan, Finland, and the former U.S.S.R. benefit from the trading of the fur of N. procyonoides. Pelts are used for necklets, collars, and fur coats. In Japan, people eat raccoon dogs as well as use their fur for bristles for calligraphy brushes. The bones have also been used medicinally and as an aphrodisiac.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug
- Not to be confused with the coonhound.
The raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides, from the Greek words nukt-, "night" + ereutēs, "wanderer" + prokuōn, "before-dog" [but in New Latin used to mean "raccoon"] + -oidēs, "-oid"), also known as the magnut or tanuki, is a canid indigenous to East Asia. It is the only extant species in the genus Nyctereutes. It is considered a basal canid species, resembling ancestral forms of the family. Among the Canidae, the raccoon dog shares the habit of regularly climbing trees only with the North American gray fox, another basal species. The raccoon dog is named for its resemblance to the raccoon (Procyon lotor), to which it is not closely related.
Native East Asian raccoon dog populations have declined in recent years due to hunting, fur trade, urbanization, an increase of animals associated with human civilization such as pets and abandoned animals, and diseases that may be transmitted between them. Following its introduction into central and western Europe, however, it has been treated as a potentially hazardous invasive species.
"Asiatic raccoon", although not the accepted common name in use by the scientific community, is the name required under USA federal law in advertising and labeling of fur garments made from the raccoon dog.
- 1 Physical description
- 2 Behavior
- 3 Range
- 4 Subspecies
- 5 Predators
- 6 Diseases and parasites
- 7 Relationships with humans
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Raccoon dog skulls greatly resemble those of South American foxes particularly crab-eating foxes, though genetic studies reveal they are not closely related. Their skulls are small, but sturdily built and moderately elongated, with narrow zygomatic arches. The projections of the skull are well developed, the sagittal crest being particularly prominent in old animals. In reflection of their omnivorous diets, raccoon dogs have small and weak canines and carnassials, flat molars and relatively long intestines (1.5–2 times longer than other canids). They have long torsos and short legs. Total lengths can range from 45 to 71 cm (18 to 28 in). The tail, at 12 to 18 cm (4.7 to 7.1 in) long, is short, amounting to less than 1/3 of the animal's total length and hangs below the tarsal joints without touching the ground. The ears are short, and protrude only slightly from the fur. Weights fluctuate according to season; in March, they weigh 3 kg (6.6 lbs), while in August to early September, males average 6.5–7 kg (14–15 lbs), with some individuals attaining a maximal weight of 9–10 kg (20–22 lb). Specimens from Japanese and Russian studies have been shown to be on average larger than those from Chinese studies.
The winter fur is long and thick with dense underfur and coarse guard hairs measuring 120 mm in length. The winter fur protects raccoon dogs from low temperatures ranging down to −20° to −25 °C. It is of a dirty, earth-brown or brownish-grey colour with black guard hairs. The tail is darker than the torso. A dark stripe is present on the back which broadens on the shoulders, forming a cross shape. The abdomen is yellowish-brown, while the chest is dark brown or blackish. The muzzle is covered in short hair, which increases in length and quantity behind the eyes. The cheeks are coated with long, whisker-like hairs. The summer fur is brighter and reddish-straw coloured.
|Alternative Chinese name|
Reproduction and development
The mating season begins from early February to late April, depending on location. Raccoon dogs are monogamous animals, with pair formations usually occurring in autumn. Captive males, however, have been known to mate with four or five females. Males will fight briefly, but not fatally, for mates. Copulation occurs during the night or dawn and will last 6–9 minutes on average[further explanation needed]. Estrus lasts from a few hours to six days, during which females will mate up to five times. Females will enter estrus again after 20–24 days, even when pregnant. The gestation period lasts 61–70 days, with pups being born in April–May. Litter sizes on average consist of 6–7 pups, though 15–16 pups can be born in exceptional cases. First-time mothers typically give birth to fewer pups than older ones. Males take an active role in raising the pups. This male role is very significant, as demonstrated by early releases in 1928 of pregnant females without males resulting in very limited success at introduction, while later releases of pairs from 1929 until the 1960s resulted in the raccoon dog's now extensive introduced European range.
At birth, pups weigh 60–110 grams, and are blind and covered in short, dense, soft wool lacking guard hairs. Their eyes open after 9–10 days, with the teeth erupting after 14–16 days. Guard hairs begin to grow after 10 days, and first appear on the hips and shoulders. After two weeks, they lighten in colour, with black tones remaining only around the eyes. Lactation lasts for 45–60 days, though pups will begin eating food brought to them as early as the age of three weeks or one month. They reach their full growth at the age of 4.5 months. Pups will leave their parents in late August–September. By October, the pups, which by then resemble adults, will unite in pairs. Sexual maturity is reached at 8–10 months. Their longevity is largely unknown; animals 6–7 years of age have been encountered in the wild, while captive specimens have been known to live for 11 years.
Raccoon dogs are the only canids known to hibernate. In early winter, they increase their subcutaneous fat by 18–23% and their internal fat by 3–5%. Animals failing to reach these fat levels usually do not survive the winter. During their hibernation, their metabolism decreases by 25%. In areas such as Ussuriland and their introduced range, raccoon dogs only hibernate during severe snowstorms. In December, their physical activity decreases once snow depth reaches 15–20 cm, and will limit the range from their burrows to no more than 150–200 m. Their daily activities increase during February when the females become receptive and when food is more available.
Raccoon dogs are omnivores which feed on insects, rodents, amphibians, birds, fish, reptiles, molluscs, carrion and insectivores. Among the rodents targeted by raccoon dogs, voles seem to predominate in swampy areas, but are replaced with gerbils in flatland areas such as Astrakhan. Frogs are the most commonly taken amphibians; in the Voronezh region, they frequently eat fire-bellied toads, while European spadefoot toads are usually taken in Ukraine. Raccoon dogs are able to eat toads which have toxic skin secretions by producing copious amounts of saliva to dilute the toxins. They will prey on waterfowl, passerines and migrating birds. Grouse are commonly hunted in their introduced range, and many instances of pheasant predation are recorded in the Ussuri territory. Raccoon dogs will eat beached fish and fish trapped in small water bodies. They rarely catch fish during the spawning season, but will eat many during the spring thaw. In their southern range, they eat young tortoises and their eggs. Insectivorous mammals hunted by raccoon dogs include shrews and hedgehogs and, on rare occasions, moles and desmans. In the Ussuri territory, large moles are their primary source of food. Plant food is highly variable, and includes bulbs, rhizomes, oats, millets, maize, nuts, fruits, berries, grapes, melons, watermelons, pumpkins and tomatoes. In Japan, they have been observed to climb trees to forage for fruits and berries, using their curved claws to climb.
Raccoon dogs will modify their diets seasonally; in late autumn and winter, they feed mostly on rodents, carrion and faeces, while fruit, insects and amphibians predominate in spring. In summer, they eat fewer rodents, and mainly target nesting birds and fruits, grains and vegetables.
They do not bark like foxes, uttering instead a growl, followed by a long-drawn melancholy whine. Captive specimens have been known to utter daily a very different kind of sound when hungry, described as a sort of mewing plaint. Males fighting for females will yelp and growl. Japanese raccoon dogs produce sounds higher in pitch than those of domestic dogs, and sound similar to cats.
From 1928–1958, 10,000 raccoon dogs of the N. p. ussuriensis subspecies were introduced in 76 districts, territories and republics of the Soviet Union in an attempt to improve their fur quality. Primor'e was the first region to be colonised, with individuals being transplanted on islands in the Sea of Japan. By 1934, raccoon dogs were introduced into Altai, the northern Caucasus, Armenia, Kirgizia, Tatarstan, Kalinin, Penza and Orenburg regions. In the following year, they were further introduced into Leningradsky, Murmansk, Novosibirsk and Bashkortostan. Raccoon dogs in Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Trans-Baikaliya and Altai did not fare well, due to harsh winters and scarce food. Raccoon dogs also fared badly in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus, Middle Asia and Moldova. However, successful introductions occurred in the Baltic states, European Russia (particularly in Kalinin, Novgorod, Pskov and Smolensk regions), in central Russia (Moscow, Yaroslavl, Vologda, Gorkiy, Vladimir, Ryazan Oblasts, etc.) as well as in the black soil belt (Voronezh, Tambov and Kursk), the lower Volga Region and the level parts of the northern Caucasus and Dagestan. In Ukraine, the greatest numbers of raccoon dogs were established in Poltava, Kherson and Lugansk.
The raccoon dog is now abundant throughout Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and has been reported as far away as Serbia, France, Romania, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. In response, Denmark set a goal of zero breeding raccoon dogs by 2015.
The five recognized subspecies of raccoon dog are:
|Nyctereutes procyonoides koreensis||Mori, 1922||Produces poor-quality fur||Korea|
|N. p. orestes||Thomas, 1923||Yunnan (China)|
|N. p. ussuriensis||Matschie, 1907||Distinguished from N. a. procyonides by its larger size and denser, longer hair. After being introduced to western USSR, it now occurs throughout Northern, Central and Eastern Europe.||Russia (Ussuri and Amur territories), northeastern China and Korea, Europe|
|N. p. viverrinus||Beard, 1904||A small subspecies with smaller teeth and skull compared to those of N. p. ussuriensis, it has the silkiest pelt among raccoon dogs.|
There is some debate in the scientific community regarding speciation between the other subspecies of raccoon dog and the Japanese subspecies in that due to chromosome, behavioral and weight differences, the Japanese raccoon dog could be considered a separate species from the other subspecies. Genetic analysis confirmed unique sequences of mtDNA, classifying the Japanese raccoon dog as a distinct isolation species, based on evidence of eight Robertsonian translocations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Canid Group's Canid Biology and Conservation Conference in September 2001 rejected the classification of the Japanese raccoon dog as a separate species, but its status is still disputed, based on its elastic genome.
|Japan||albus (Hornaday, 1904)|
|N. p. procyonoides||Temminck, 1838||Nominate subspecies||Rest of Asia||kalininensis (Sorokin, 1958)|
sinensis (Brass, 1904)
stegmanni (Matschie, 1907)
Wolves are the main predators of raccoon dogs, killing large numbers of them in spring and summer, though attacks have been reported in autumn, too. In Tartarstan, wolf predation can account for 55.6% of raccoon dog deaths, while in northwestern Russia, it amounts to 64%. Red foxes will kill raccoon dog pups, and have been known to bite adults to death. Both foxes and Eurasian badgers compete with raccoon dogs for food, and have been known to kill them if raccoon dogs enter their burrows. Eurasian lynxes rarely attack them, due to their low numbers. Birds of prey known to prey on raccoon dogs include golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, goshawks and eagle owls.
Diseases and parasites
Raccoon dogs carry 32 different parasitic worms, including eight trematode species, 17 species of nematodes, seven cestodes and particularly Echinococcus. Six species of fleas are known to be carried by them, including Chaetopsylla trichosa, C. globiceps, Paraceras melis, Ctenocephalides felis, C. canis and Pulex irritans. Ticks include Dermacentor pictus, Ixodes ricinus, I. persulcatus, I. crenulatus and Acarus siro. Speculation exists that the introduction of the raccoon dog to Europe brought with it infected ticks that introduced the Asian tick-borne meningoencephalitis virus.
Cases of raccoon dogs carrying rabies are known from the lower Volga, Voronezh and Lithuania, and massive epizootics of piroplasmosis were recorded in Ukraine and Tartary. Canine distemper occurs in raccoon dogs inhabiting the northern Caucasus. Captive raccoon dogs in Soviet state animal farms were recorded to carry paratyphoid, anthrax and tuberculosis. Although they can be infected with mange, it does not pose a significant threat to their populations as it does with foxes.
Relationships with humans
Game and crop damage
Raccoon dogs are harmful to game bird populations, particularly in floodlands and the shorelines of estuaries where they feed almost exclusively on eggs and chicks during the spring period. Birds amount to 15–20% of their diets in Lithuania, 46% on the Oka River floodlands and 48.6% in the Voronezh Reserve. They are also harmful to the muskrat trade, destroying their nests and eating their young. In Ukraine, raccoon dogs are harmful to kitchen gardens, melon cultivations, vineyards and corn seedlings.
Raccoon dogs are typically hunted from November until the snow deepens. In the Far East, they are hunted at night using Laikas and mongrels. In the 19th century, the Goldi and Oroch people would fasten bells to the collars of their raccoon dog hounds. In their introduced range, raccoon dogs are usually caught incidentally during hunts for other species. Hunting with dogs is the most efficient method in raccoon dog harvests, having success rates of 80–90%, as opposed to 8–10% with guns and 5–7% with traps. Unless they retreat in their burrows, hunted raccoon dogs can be quickly strangled by hunting dogs. Traps are usually set at their burrows, along the shores of water bodies and around marshes and ponds.
In Finland, 60,000–70,000 raccoon dogs were bagged in 2000, but the take was 170,000 in 2009 and 164,000 in 2010. Hunting of raccoon dogs in Hungary began in 1997, with an annual catch of one to 9 animals. In Poland, 6,200 were shot in 2002–2003. Annual Swedish and Danish raccoon dog hunts usually result in the capture of two to seven individuals. Between 18,000 and 70,000 Japanese raccoon dogs were killed in Japan from the post-WWII period to 1982. Japan has intensified its raccoon dog culling since the 1970s, averaging 4,529 kills annually between 1990 and 1998. Harvests have since decreased.
When used on clothing, the fur of the raccoon dog is called "murmansky" fur. Generally, the quality of the pelt is based on the silkiness of the fur, as its physical appeal depends upon the guard hairs being erect, which is only possible in silkier furs. Small raccoon dog pelts with silky fur command higher prices than large, coarse-furred ones. Due to their long and coarse guard hairs and their woolly fur fibre which has a tendency to felt or mat, raccoon dog pelts are used almost exclusively for fur trimmings. Japanese raccoon dog pelts, though smaller than other geographic variants, are the most valued variety, with specimens from Amur and northern Manchuria coming close behind, while Korean and southern Chinese are the least valued. When raised in captivity, raccoon dogs can produce 100 grams of wool of slightly lesser quality than that of goats.
In the Japanese islands, the natives employed raccoon dog skin to make bellows, and also to decorate their drums and for winter head-gear. Russian trade in raccoon dogs was quite developed in the Primorye and Ussuri areas in the 1880s. The world trade of raccoon dog pelts during the 1907–1910 amounted to 260–300,000, of which it was once estimated that 20,000 (5–8%) came from Russia, though more recent figures estimate a lesser number of 5–6,000. 12,000 raccoon dogs were caught in the 1930s. In their introduced range, licensed trade of raccoon dogs began in 1948–1950, with restrictions being removed in 1953–1955. After the trade began, the number of catches increased sharply; from 1953–1961, it fluctuated between 30–70,000. In the latter year, about 10,000 were taken from their natural range in the Far East, while 56,000 were taken in their introduced range. Of the 56 thousand, 6,500 came from Belorussia, 5,000 in Ukraine, 4,000 each for Latvia, Lithuania and Krasnodar, 3,700 in Kalinin, 2,700 in Pskov, 2,300 in Astrakhan, while 1–2,000 pelts each were produced in Vologod, Moscow, Leningrad, Novogrod, Smolensk, Yaroslavl, Azerbaijan, Estonia and Dagestan. Less than 1000 pelts were produced in all remaining republics and districts. Successful raccoon dog introductions in Kalinin resulted in animals with denser and softer fur: the length of guard and top hairs increased by 7.96%, that of the underfur by 5.3%. The thickness of the guard and top hairs decreased by 3.41%. The density of the fur increased by 11.3%. They also became darker in colour, with black-brown pelts occurring in 8% of specimens, as opposed to 3% in their homeland.
Captive breeding of raccoon dogs was initiated in 1928 in the Far East, with 15 state farms keeping them in 1934. Raccoon dogs were the principal furbearers farmed during the early years of collective farms, particularly in the Ukraine. By the 1940s, this practise lessened in popularity, as the raccoon dogs required almost the same types of food as silver foxes, which were more valuable.
An investigation by three animal protection groups into the Chinese fur trade in 2004 and part of 2005 asserts approximately 1.5 million raccoon dogs are raised for fur in China. The raccoon dog comprises 11% of all animals hunted in Japan. Twenty percent of domestically produced fur in Russia is from the raccoon dog.
Misrepresentation as artificial fur
In several widely publicized incidents, clothing advertised and sold as having synthetic faux fur, were documented as actually containing real fur from raccoon dogs.
In late 2006, MSNBC reported Macy's had pulled from its shelves and its website two styles of Sean John hooded jackets, originally advertised as featuring faux fur, after an investigation concluded garments were actually made from raccoon dog. Sean Combs, the label's founder, said he had been unaware of the material, but as soon as he knew about it, he had his clothing line stop using the material.
On 24 April 2008, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a false advertising complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission alleging at least 20 retailers in the U.S. have been mislabeling raccoon dog fur. They assert 70% of fur garments they tested were raccoon dog but were mislabeled as faux fur, coyote, rabbit, or other animals. In December 2009 Lord & Taylor announced new regulations banning the sale of raccoon dog fur in its stores.
On 19 March 2013, three U.S. retailers settled lawsuits with the U.S. government following an investigation which confirmed they had been selling raccoon dog fur, but labeling it as fake fur. Neiman Marcus, DrJays.com and Eminent (Revolve Clothing) reached settlements with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that do not incur financial penalties unless they mislabel the fur again.
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