Open Access Open Badges Research article

Application of change-point analysis to determine winter sleep patterns of the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) from body temperature recordings and a multi-faceted dietary and behavioral study of wintering

Anne-Mari Mustonen12*, Terttu Lempiäinen3, Mikko Aspelund4, Paavo Hellstedt5, Katri Ikonen2, Juhani Itämies6, Ville Vähä7, Jaakko Erkinaro7, Juha Asikainen2, Mervi Kunnasranta8, Pekka Niemelä9, Jari Aho10 and Petteri Nieminen12

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Biomedicine/Anatomy, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70211, Kuopio, Finland

2 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science and Forestry, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 111, FI-80101, Joensuu, Finland

3 Botanical museum, Department of Biology, University of Turku, FI-20014, Turku, Finland

4 Department of Physics and Mathematics, Faculty of Science and Forestry, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 111 FI-80101, Joensuu, Finland

5 Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 27, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland

6 Zoological museum, Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland

7 Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, P.O. Box 413, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland

8 Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, Itäinen Pitkäkatu 3, FI-20520, Turku, Finland

9 Department of Biology, University of Turku, FI-20014, Turku, Finland

10 Municipal Veterinary Clinic of Joensuu, Takilatie 5, FI-80110, Joensuu, Finland

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Citation and License

BMC Ecology 2012, 12:27  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-12-27

Published: 13 December 2012



A multi-faceted approach was used to investigate the wintertime ecophysiology and behavioral patterns of the raccoon dog, Nyctereutes procyonoides, a suitable model for winter sleep studies. By utilizing GPS tracking, activity sensors, body temperature (Tb) recordings, change-point analysis (CPA), home range, habitat and dietary analyses, as well as fatty acid signatures (FAS), the impact of the species on wintertime food webs was assessed. The timing of passive bouts was determined with multiple methods and compared to Tb data analyzed by CPA.


Raccoon dogs displayed wintertime mobility, and the home range sizes determined by GPS were similar or larger than previous estimates by radio tracking. The preferred habitats were gardens, shores, deciduous forests, and sparsely forested areas. Fields had close to neutral preference; roads and railroads were utilized as travel routes. Raccoon dogs participated actively in the food web and gained benefit from human activity. Mammals, plants, birds, and discarded fish comprised the most important dietary classes, and the consumption of fish could be detected in FAS. Ambient temperature was an important external factor influencing Tb and activity. The timing of passive periods approximated by behavioral data and by CPA shared 91% similarity.


Passive periods can be determined with CPA from Tb recordings without the previously used time-consuming and expensive methods. It would be possible to recruit more animals by using the simple methods of data loggers and ear tags. Hunting could be used as a tool to return the ear-tagged individuals allowing the economical extension of follow-up studies. The Tb and CPA methods could be applied to other northern carnivores.

Body temperature; Change-point analysis; Fatty acid signature; Foraging ecology; GPS tracking; Home range; Nyctereutes procyonoides; Winter sleep