Koistinen, T., Raatikainen, S., Sepponen, J. et al. 2018. Resting preferences and welfare of Finnraccoon (Nyctereutes procyonoides ussuriensis) females housed in various housing conditions in winter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 207, 129-137.
Raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides ussuriensis) is the only canid species using facultative passive wintering strategy. The aim of the present study is to document the behaviour and welfare of the farmed variant of the species, i.e. Finnraccoon, housed in various conditions in winter. Young Finnraccoon females were housed in four different housing conditions; alone in a small cage (0.8 m2), alone in a larger cage (1.2 m2), alone in the large cage with access to a winter nest and in pair in the large cage, through their first winter. In order to control the body mass, the animals were weighed at the start of the housing treatment. The behaviour of the females was analysed by using instantaneous sampling with a sampling interval of 5 min for 24 h in one day, both in January and February. The animals were euthanized in March. The body size and mass of some organs related to the physiological state of the animals were measured. The Finnraccoons rested for 69–74% of their time, without difference between groups or months. The Finnraccoons with access to the nest box spent over 90% of their resting time inside the nest box, whereas the pair housed Finnraccoons allohuddled over 90% of their resting time. The Finnraccoons without these options rested mainly on the cage floor (74–85% of resting) and to a lesser extent on the platform (15–26 % of resting). The Finnraccoons with access to a nest box were less active and performed less nutritive behaviours than those housed alone, and without access to a nest box. This indicates passive wintering strategy, although no true hibernation was observed. The stereotypic behaviour occupied <1–2% of the observations, without difference between groups. The heavier animals had heavier organs, and no differences between groups were found in the mass of any organ. The furs remained clean in the Finnraccoons with access to the nest box. Number of scars, indicating agonistic interactions, was low in the pair housed Finnraccoons. Although no difference between groups is found in the physiological welfare measurements and in the occurrence of stereotypic behaviour, the results suggest that young Finnraccoon females should be housed in pairs until the onset of the mating season, and if housed singly, they should be provided with a winter nest to secure comfortable resting behaviour.