Seasonal physiology of the wild raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides)

Zoolog Sci. 2004 Apr;21(4):385-91. doi: 10.2108/zsj.21.385.


The raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) is a canid omnivore with autumnal fattening and winter sleep. Farmraised raccoon dogs have elevated plasma leptin and growth hormone levels in the winter and depressed plasma cortisol and insulin concentrations during wintertime food deprivation. However, these parameters were not previously tested in the wild population. In the present study 37 wild raccoon dogs were sampled at different seasons and diverse biochemical variables were determined. The results mostly confirmed previous observations on farmraised raccoon dogs. The liver glycogen stores increased during the autumnal fattening period but were low in the winter. The liver glycogen phosphorylase activity decreased but lipase activity increased in the winter indicating the use of fat as the principal metabolic fuel. The plasma insulin concentrations were low in the winter allowing the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue. Low wintertime cortisol and thyroid hormone levels could contribute to protein sparing. Unlike on farms, wild raccoon dogs did not show seasonal fluctuations in their plasma ghrelin or growth hormone levels. The observed physiological phenomena emphasise the adaptation of the species to long periods of food scarcity in the winter.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Body Constitution
  • Carnivora / blood
  • Carnivora / metabolism
  • Carnivora / physiology*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Seasons*