Overwintering strategy of wild free-ranging and enclosure-housed Japanese raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides albus)

Int J Biometeorol. 2009 Mar;53(2):159-65. doi: 10.1007/s00484-008-0199-7. Epub 2008 Dec 20.


The raccoon dog, Nyctereutes procyonoides, is a canid with a passive overwintering strategy in northern Europe. However, the behaviour and physiology of the Japanese subspecies, N. p. albus, which has fewer chromosomes than the other subspecies, remain unknown. We measured body temperature, body composition and blood biochemistry of wild free-ranging and fasted enclosure-housed N. p. albus during boreal winter in Hokkaido, Japan. Body temperature of N. p. albus decreased from 38 degrees C in autumn to 35.9-36.7 degrees C while maintaining a circadian rhythm in late February (n = 3). A transient 18-36% decrease in resting heart rate occurred when body temperature was low (n = 2). Despite a 33-45% decrease in body weight due to winter fasting, circulating glucose, total protein and triglyceride levels were maintained (n = 4). Serum urea nitrogen dropped by 43-45% from autumn to spring, suggesting protein conservation during fasting. The overwintering survival strategy of N. p. albus in central Hokkaido is based upon large changes in seasonal activity patterns, winter denning and communal housing without the large decrease in body temperature that is characteristic of subarctic animals exhibiting hibernation or torpor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / physiology
  • Body Composition
  • Body Temperature
  • Female
  • Hibernation / physiology
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Raccoon Dogs / blood
  • Raccoon Dogs / physiology*
  • Seasons