racoon dogScientific Name– Nyctereutes procyonoides

Conservation Status– Least Concern

Appearance

Racoon dogs are a medium sized canid. They have thick, dense, brown fur. In a ring at the back of the neck and inside the ears the fur is a light, cream colour. A line along the top of the eyes and between them down to the eyes is also coloured cream. The underside and the legs are coated with black fur. The tail is black on top and a yellowy brown underneath.

The height of the racoon dog varies from 38.1 to 50.8cm (15in to 20in). From the start of the head to the base of the tail they measure 50 to 68cm (20 to 27in). The tail adds another 13 to 25cm (5 to 10cm) to this length. Racoon dogs weigh 3-10kg (6.6-22lbs).

Lifespan                                                                                  

In the wild a racoon dog may reach ages of up 7 years. In captivity some have been known to reach 14 years of age.

Diet

The racoon dog is an omnivore. Insects, rodents, birds, reptiles, fish, molluscs, carrion and amphibians form the majority of their meat diet. Plants in their diet include melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, nuts, berries, grapes, rhizomes, millet and oats.

One of the racoon dogs amazing adaptations is the ability to eat poison. When ingesting toxic toads large amounts of saliva is produced diluting the powers of the toxins and making them edible.

Habitat

Naturally the racoon dog was found throughout Japan, North Korea, Vietnam and China. Now though they are extinct in many areas of China.

In attempt to improve fur quality of these animals 10,000 of them were released into the USSR throughout the 1920s-1950s. This program has proven to be extremely successful in establishing this species as an invasive species across much of Europe and Russia. They are now present throughout Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, France, Romania, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The government in Denmark aims to exterminate the racoon dogs by 2015.

Racoon dogs are found in forests and woodlands near to a water source. They live in areas with a sub-tropical or subarctic climate.

racoon dog

Reproduction

In the wild the racoon dog is a monogamous animal. Their mating season starts in February and ends in April. A group of 3 to 4 males will follow a female around with some small fights taking place as they attempt to win the right to mate with the female.

Pups are born after a 60-70 day gestation period. The average little includes 5 or 6 pups but one exceptional case saw a littler of 16 pups born. The male plays an integral role in raising the pups. These pups are blind and only have a short, dense coat similar in texture to wool. These pups are only 60-110 grams.

After 9-10 days the eyes open with fur begging to grow after this. The pups need to feed on milk for 45-60 days. They will begin on solid food after a month though.

The pups are fully grown by 4 and ½ months of age. By August to September or at approximately 4-5 months old they will leave their parents. At 8-10months of old they are ready to reproduce.

Behaviour

The racoon dog receives some of its name from its food washing tendency similar to North American racoons.

Racoon dogs are the only canids which are known to hibernate. They increase their weight ahead of winter and do not leave the burrow during extreme snow storms. As such it is not like most hibernations as they do emerge from the burrow sporadically.

The racoon dog emits a growl which is followed by a whine.

Wolves are the main threat to racoon dogs. Some birds of prey such as golden eagles and goshawks will eat the racoon dog. In their introduced range the Eurasian lynx is occasionally a threat but these are now in such low numbers they are not really a threat. Foxes and badgers have been known to attack racoon dogs which enter their burrows.

The racoon dog has been observed exhibiting nocturnal, crepuscular and diurnal. These differing patterns have been attributed to the amounts of small food animals in different areas must find.

When hunting for food the racoon dog is able to swim or dive.

Quick facts

The racoon dog is also known by the names mangut, tanuki and Asiatic racoon.

5 subspecies of the racoon dog are acknowledged.

Racoon dog fur is regularly used to make fur coats which is threatening their survival.

Photo Credits:

Top- By Dennis Irrgang from Deutschland(Germany) (Bawwwww) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom- By 663highland (663highland) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons