Invasive Alien species – The Racoon Dog

Invasive alien species can cause a multitude of problems with native wildlife and predator species have the greatest impact. The raccoon dog is such an invasive alien species but also one that is likely to grow worse through a multitude of issues. Further, it is cute and fluffy, so more and more people are having them as pets, which can lead to it spreading further and faster.

The History of the Raccoon Dog

Raccoon dogs are native to East Asia, with 9100 introduced to the former Western Soviet Union for their fur. Subsequent deliberate releases of this invasive alien species and escapes from fur farms, raccoon dogs have bred exponentially and spread across Europe.

Reasons for their success

The raccoon dogs successful spread across Europe (particularly Northern Europe) is helped as it is the only known canide to hibernate. Further, Raccoon dogs are omnivorous and therefore able to subsist on a wide range of food. In combination with the above, raccoon dogs have e tendency to wonder and can travel anywhere between 300km in a single year and up to 500km has been recorded over the course of 5 years. This plasticity in diet, ability to overwinter, in combination with covering vast distances means that the raccoon dogs are able to persist in many environments and have thus spread across a wide range of Europe.

The Raccoon dogs spread across Europe

The current spread of raccoon dogs is:

  • Baltic States
  • Scandinavian States
  • Most of Northern Europe
  • Eastern Europe
  • Most of Central Europe
  • Parts of South Eastern Europe
  • Areas of Western Europe and
  • Southern Europe

Meanwhile they have also recently spread into Italy.

Affects in Europe

In Europe, the invasive alien raccoon dog affects local wildlife in various ways. In particular they are carriers of and spread disease, parasites, while competing for food and predate local wildlife.

Risk of infection

A recent study has suggested that the Raccoon dog carries many diseases, some of which can be passed onto humans. Worrying as this is, invasive alien species typically carry and spread; diseases, viruses and parasites from where they originate. While the invasive alien species may have adapted to these factors; native species, where the invasive alien species is new, often have no such adaptations against these new threats. Commonly this causes a decline in the abundance of native animals. Well know examples are the spread of disease by the grey squirrel and white clawed crayfish in many European countries. One of the greatest diseases raccoon dogs risk spreading is rabies.

Competition for food

One of the most successful invasive alien carnivores in Europe, the raccoon dog likely completes for food with other carnivores. Notability, raccoon dogs have the greatest impact upon the Red fox and Eurasian badger.

Predation of local wildlife

The affect of raccoon dogs on local wildlife is less obvious. Once strongly believed that they had a significant impact on game birds and waterfowl; recently this impact is smaller than previously believed. Nevertheless, raccoon dogs are known to have a significant impact on herpetofauna.

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