Winter Weather Effects on Activity of an Invasive Predator in Northern Regions

Greg Howard
9th July, 2024

Winter Weather Effects on Activity of an Invasive Predator in Northern Regions

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study from the University of Turku examined the winter behavior of invasive raccoon dogs in Finland
  • Raccoon dogs reduce their activity during the coldest months but remain somewhat active even in extremely cold conditions
  • Unlike raccoon dogs, red foxes maintain higher activity levels throughout winter, while badgers are mostly dormant
The study from the University of Turku investigates the winter behavior of the invasive raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) in Finland, near the edge of their invasion front[1]. This research focuses on understanding how this species, which can periodically use winter sleep, compares in activity levels to native mesopredators such as red foxes and badgers during the coldest months. The findings have significant implications for cold ecosystems in Europe, particularly in the context of climate change. Raccoon dogs are a potential threat to cold ecosystems due to their ability to maintain some level of activity even in extremely cold environments. The study used wildlife cameras and GPS tracking to monitor the winter activity of raccoon dogs, red foxes, and badgers. The results showed that raccoon dogs do reduce their activity during the coldest months, but their activity levels did not strongly correlate with temperature. This could be due to the presence of artificial food sources near camera sites, which may have increased their winter activity. In comparison, red foxes were less responsive to temperature drops, maintaining higher activity levels throughout the winter. Badgers, on the other hand, were mostly dormant and thus absent from the data, indicating a significant reduction in winter activity. GPS-tracked raccoon dogs showed some level of activity throughout winter, even in subarctic regions, although cold and snowy weather decreased their activity, causing them to stay close to their nests during the coldest periods. These findings suggest that raccoon dogs have a potential advantage in cold environments due to their ability to remain active and exploit human-provided resources. This adaptability could allow raccoon dogs to thrive in cold regions, posing a threat to native species and ecosystems. As winters become milder due to climate change, the number of raccoon dogs could increase significantly, leading to greater ecological impacts. The study's results align with earlier research on the impact of climate change on species distributions and behaviors. For instance, previous studies have shown that climate warming is expected to reduce the abundance and restrict the ranges of super-dominant species in the Arctic, while boreal species could expand into tundra regions[2]. The raccoon dog's ability to remain active in cold environments and exploit human resources highlights its invasive potential and the challenges it poses to cold-adapted ecosystems. Furthermore, the rapid range expansion of other species, such as the golden jackal (Canis aureus) towards Northern and Western Europe, has been observed to be favored by climate change[3]. Similar to the raccoon dog, the golden jackal's adaptability and broad diet allow it to thrive in new environments, potentially affecting ecosystem equilibrium through changes in competition and predation pressures. The University of Turku's study provides valuable insights into the winter behavior of raccoon dogs and their potential impact on cold ecosystems. By understanding how this invasive species responds to winter weather, conservationists and policymakers can better anticipate and mitigate the ecological challenges posed by raccoon dogs in the context of climate change. The findings underscore the importance of monitoring and managing invasive species to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem health in cold regions.



Main Study

1) Invasion in cold: weather effects on winter activity of an alien mesopredator at its northern range

Published 8th July, 2024

Related Studies

2) Biodiversity, distributions and adaptations of Arctic species in the context of environmental change.

Journal: Ambio, Issue: Vol 33, Issue 7, Nov 2004

3) From the Balkan towards Western Europe: Range expansion of the golden jackal (Canis aureus)-A climatic niche modeling approach.

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