Probably the most interesting fact about the raccoon dog is that it's actually not related to raccoons at all, and is in fact part of the canid family which includes dogs, foxes, and wolves. It is native to East Asia, but as you can see from the map above, has been introduced and is now very successfully populating western areas of Russia and Eastern Europe. They were introduced in an attempt to improve fur quality, as they are very popular in the fur trade. However due to their adaptability they have bred rapidly and are now considered a pest in many areas especially in western Europe where they are seen as a potentially hazardous invasive species. They are culled in some areas.
Increasingly they are becoming popular in the pet trade, something that is very much not recommended. This is how Akemi and Tanuki came to be with us, they were rescued by the RSPCA and given to us to look after. We have been working very hard with them to train them as they were originally very frightened and not well socialised, Akemi had never seen grass and was scared to walk on it. Gradually she has become less wary and will now walk on it during trips around the zoo. We take them on walks so that they can follow smells with their noses, and let them go where they would like to go so that their natural instincts can be nurtured.
They are the only canids that are known to hibernate but due to the climate over here being much milder than their indigenous habitats although their activity levels do decrease, they don't fully hibernate. They are monogamous animals and the mating season occurs around February to April, with pups being born in April to May. Gestation is 61-70 days and a litter on average consists of 6-7 pups. The male does help to rear the pups, taking on a significant role in this area.
Raccoon dogs like to many things including insects, fruit, rodents, fish, and birds, and ours have a particular love of cheese! Although this is a very special treat as it's a good thing to eat in moderation!