Normally Monday mornings are the time that the answer to the mystery object is posted on my blog, but this weekend I’ve been involved in the Enlightenment Cafe, which has meant I’ve been too busy to write the usual full answer. Here are a couple of images of me doing my bit in the show (photo on stage courtesy of @sillypunk):
But excuses for tardiness aside, here is the mystery object I would have been writing a proper answer for if I wasn’t on a stage talking to a room full of people:
You all spotted that it was a type of canid (dog) straight away, but the species was a little bit more tricky. Many went for a fox of some kind, as it is quite a small specimen, but Barbara Powell, Jamie Revell and Ethan plumped for the correct answer of Raccoon Dog Nyctereutes procyonoides (Gray, 1834). Barbara even provided one of the diagnostic characteristics: “upper tooth row less than half length of skull”.
Raccoon Dogs are charismatic little canids, like small foxes with stumpy little legs:
They are originally from Japan, Korea, north-eastern China and Siberia, but they have been introduced to northern Europe from fur farms where they were bred for their pelts or ‘murmansky’. Much like Mink in the UK they have spread remarkably quickly and have become something of a nuisance.
Their omnivorous habits meant that they are a bit of an agricultural pest of fruit and veg, they play host to a variety of nasty diseases of livestock and humans and they are a particular problem for populations of ground nesting birds – to the point where there are eradication programmes in some countries. Who’d have thought that something so cute could be such a nuisance – all as a direct result of the fur trade. Don’t buy fur!