CLOQUET, Minn. — It was early December 1981 when state Conservation Officer Lee Alderson discovered a dead animal along a road a handful of miles north of Cloquet, a critter no one particular had ever observed in Minnesota prior to.
The animal had apparently been struck by a vehicle. At 1st blush it looked like a raccoon, such as the masked face. But it was a bit distinctive, with skinnier legs and no stripe on the tail, and had some traits of a fox or dog.
It took a although prior to Division of All-natural Sources biologists figured out precisely what it was — an Asian raccoon dog, also named a Finn-raccoon or tanuki — and they weren’t content about the discovery.
Prized in Russia for their thick pelts, the critter is native to Siberia, Manchuria, Japan and other places of Asia, but also has been transported and released all more than, spreading in the wild across most of Europe, causing major complications for native species. Envision an all-new mammal in the Northland — with an insatiable appetite, that can breed like rabbits — abruptly multiplying.
Raccoon dogs feed on eggs from bird nests, fish, rodents and modest birds and animals as effectively as crops and nuts like acorns. And although they may possibly appear like svelte raccoons, they are not closely associated. They are a canine, of the dog family members, and will consume just about something they can, substantially like a bear. In addition, they are a human well being threat since an unusually higher quantity of the species carry rabies.
“At 1st no one knew how it got right here or exactly where it came from. We also didn’t know how numerous far more have been out there,” mentioned Bill Berg, a now-retired DNR wildlife biologist who worked on the case 38 years ago. “This is one particular far more of these points that, had we not got a manage on it, would have been an absolute disaster for Minnesota wildlife.”
Alderson snooped about, as very good cops do, and discovered a regional fur farmer who certainly had bought a number of raccoon dogs from a breeder in Wisconsin. Unbeknownst to any state officials, the fur farmer had imported some of the raccoon dogs to raise for their pelts and to sell breeding stock to other fur farmers.
The male raccoon dog had escaped from the fur farm a number of months prior to it was discovered, right after a storm broken the farmer’s pens. Wildlife authorities say it probably would have survived in the north woods just fine. Had far more of the critters escaped, northern Minnesota’s ecosystem may possibly have been altered forever.
“He produced it via one particular fairly extreme winter on his personal currently. He was in very good shape when he got hit,” mentioned Ed Boggess, retired chief of Fish and Wildlife for the Minnesota DNR.
In addition, raccoon dogs multiply speedy, with massive litters every year. They attain sexual maturity at just 9-11 months and can have anyplace from 5 to 10 pups, though some litters have been as massive as 19. In Latvia, exactly where 100 raccoon dogs have been released into the wild in 1948, their numbers exploded to more than 10,000 by 1963, out of handle and beyond eradicating.
“It was spreading in Europe currently … And (exactly where) it was initially from is about the exact same latitude as Minnesota,” Boggess mentioned. “We had to assume it would have thrived right here, so (we) knew we had to do some thing and do it fairly speedy.”
Boggess began his job as manager of the DNR’s furbearer system in April 1982, just as the raccoon dog crisis was heating up. For what ever cause, the story by no means discovered its way to the public eye and there have by no means been any Minnesota media reports on the challenge. (There is no written record of most facts remaining in Minnesota DNR files, only the memory of the wildlife managers involved. Some facts on the Minnesota scenario have been recorded on paper by the Illinois DNR to enable fill in the blanks.)
If not for some speedy action by wildlife agencies, raccoon dogs otherwise may possibly have joined the expanding list of foreign invaders that are undertaking harm right here — all the things from zebra mussels and emerald ash borer to Asian carp. Raccoon dogs probably would have competed straight with genuine raccoons, gray and red fox and other native critters. They have been feared to be in particular tough on nesting waterfowl since raccoon dogs commit substantially of their time close to water.
This is one particular far more of these points that, had we not got a manage on it, would have been an absolute disaster for Minnesota wildlife.
At about the exact same time Minnesota was dealing with the challenge, Canadian wildlife officials moved in 1981 to ban importation and possession of raccoon dogs there, tracking down a number of fur farmers in Ontario and paying them far more than $115,000 to hand more than animals they currently had on hand.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also moved to classify raccoon dogs as federally injurious animals, generating them illegal to import or possess. That rule took impact Jan. 17, 1983. On April 12, 1983, Minnesota DNR Commissioner Joe Alexander also signed a state commissioners order generating them illegal to import and possess in Minnesota.
But no one particular knew how numerous of the animals have been currently right here, either in pens or on the loose. In Illinois, state wildlife officials tracked down many breeders and paid $78,000 for 151 raccoon dogs that have been promptly destroyed.
In Minnesota, Boggess, Berg and other wildlife officials at some point determined that there was only one particular fur farmer, situated on Jackson Road in Solway Township, just north of Cloquet, who was raising raccoon dogs. In 1983, Boggess rounded up $15,000 from the DNR wildlife spending budget and supplied to spend the owner to take handle of 17 raccoon dogs on his house.
The owner agreed.
“We got the guidelines, federal and state, in spot to quit any far more from coming in. … But our worry was we’d have far more escape that have been currently right here. We had to deal with these, as well,” Boggess mentioned.
Most of the raccoon dogs on the Cloquet fur farm have been euthanized and a handful of have been provided to zoos in Apple Valley and Duluth, but only right after they had been surgically sterilized, just in case they managed one more escape.
“This is one particular of these possible ecological calamities for north woods wildlife that was narrowly averted,” Boggess mentioned. “And that no one particular (outdoors the DNR) ever realized had been prevented.”
ABOUT RACCOON DOGS
- Length: 18-28 inches
- Weight: eight-15 pounds
- Habitat: Dense forests, close to water
- Species: Regardless of their masked look, raccoon dogs are not associated to raccoons. They belong to the canidae family members, alongside wolves and foxes. There are 5 subspecies of raccoon dogs that are native to eastern Asia but which have been moved and released and are now feral across Europe as effectively.
- Hibernation: They are mainly nocturnal and, like bears, commit element of the winter hibernating — the only member of the dog family members to do so.
- Masked bandits: In May perhaps 2019, a pair of raccoon dogs have been reported to be “terrorizing” a village in the United Kingdom right after they escaped from a nearby enclosure. A number of stories came out of Nottinghamshire of a goat and pony attacked and a dog walker spooked. The invading raccoon dogs have been at some point chased off by individuals wielding major pieces of wood.