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The raccoon dog, a harmful carnivore from Asia

The raccoon dog ( Nyctereutes procyonoides ) is called Racoon dog by the English, either raccoon dog in France or marten dog , and Tanuki in Japan where it is the symbol of prosperity. It is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae family, native to eastern Asia which, like many other exogenous species, is considered harmful and invasive.

The raccoon dog: identity card

The raccoon dog has the size of a fox, the massive body of a badger, the short legs of the Mustelids ( marten, weasel, etc.), and the colors of the coat reminiscent of the raccoon, which somewhat explains the different names given to it. are assigned.

At the withers, it measures around 25 to 30 cm for a total length of 60 to 90 cm to which must be added 20 to 25 cm of a very bushy tail of solid color. It is therefore short-legged, stocky, with a dark facial mask excluding the nose, and long, soft, silky hair. It is also its fur that has long been highly prized, especially in the USSR, which bred it to make clothes. The color of the coat varies but remains in shades of more or less dark brown or ocher on the back, with black tips. The belly has pale, almost tan hair, while the chest and legs are black.

As this animal is the only canine that hibernates, its weight is therefore brought to vary according to the seasons: around 5 kg in summer and rather close to 8 kg in winter when it has made its reserves. If the cold is not extreme, it is common for the raccoon dog not to hibernate.

It is an animal that comes out at dusk with an activity mainly at night, to hunt at ground level and feed. It does not climb trees but can swim, it relies more on its sense of smell than on its sight to catch its prey. During the day, it sleeps, forming a ball with its body rolled up.

It is rather solitary or evolves in couple, and sometimes in small family group.

Its life expectancy varies from 7 to 15 years depending on whether it is wild or in captivity.

Reproduction of the raccoon dog

The raccoon dog is not a “runner”, it is a loyal, monogamous one. At the end of hibernation, around February or March depending on the local climate, the rut begins and will last about 15 to 20 days. At the end of a 2-month gestation, 5 to 7 small raccoon dogs are born, blind with a fluffy dark coat. They will start to see after a big week. The female nurses them for a month and the male participates in raising the young until they reach sexual maturity, that is to say around 10 months.

The habitat of the raccoon dog

The habitat of the raccoon dog is made up of an abandoned fox or badger burrow, a hollow tree, a dead tree stump, but also a pile of branches or hay. It rarely digs its own burrow. Like the badger, it deposits excerpts of faeces around the entrance to its burrow to mark its territory.

Raccoon dog food

The raccoon dog is omnivorous, and its diet will adapt to its living environment but will indiscriminately contain food of animal and vegetable origin: voles , slugs, snails, amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds and their eggs, carrion, insects, berries, mushrooms.

The raccoon dog, considered harmful

The raccoon dog, an exogenous species, arrived in Eastern and then Western Europe mainly through animals that escaped from farms in the USSR. Although the first raccoon dog was observed in eastern France in 1975 and an animal was reported further west, in Saône-et-Loire in 2015, its population does not seem to be growing intensely. However, it is still part of the list of harmful animals throughout France, according to a decree of March 24, 2014 , which means that they “can be trapped all year round and in any place. They can be destroyed by shooting on individual authorization issued by the prefect between the date of general closing and the date of general opening of the hunt”. The raccoon dog is therefore above all the victim of shooting, capture, road collision. Moreover, its natural predators are the wolf, the lynx, the golden eagle, the Grand Duke, but also the dog

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