Invasion of the raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides in Europe: History of colonization, features behind its success, and threats to native fauna

Kauhala, Kaarina; Kowalczyk, Rafal
October 2011
Current Zoology;2011, Vol. 57 Issue 5, p584
Academic Journal
We aimed to review the history of the introduction and colonization of the raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides in Europe, the features behind its successful expansion and its impact on native fauna. The raccoon dog quickly colonized new areas after being introduced to the European part of the former Soviet Union. Today it is widespread in Northern and Eastern Europe and is still spreading in Central Europe. Features behind its success include its adaptability, high reproductive potential, omnivory, hibernation in northern areas, multiple introductions with > 9000 individuals from different localities, and tendency to wander enabling gene flow between populations. Firm evidence of the raccoon dog’s negative impact on native fauna, such as a reduction in bird populations, is still scarce. Raccoon dogs may destroy waterfowl nests, although a nest predation study in Latvia did not confirm this. Predator removal studies in Finland suggested that the raccoon dog’s impact on game birds is smaller than expected. However, raccoon dogs may have caused local extinction of frog populations, especially on islands. Raccoon dogs may compete with other carnivores for food, for example for carrion in winter, or for the best habitat patches. In northern Europe potential competitors include the red fox Vulpes vulpes and the badger Meles meles, but studies of their diets or habitat preferences do not indicate severe competition. The raccoon dog is an important vector of diseases and parasites, such as rabies, Echinococcus multilocularis and Trichinella spp. and this is no doubt the most severe consequence arising from the spread of this alien species in Europe [Current Zoology 57 (5): 584–598, 2011].


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