Alert over raccoon sighting

 

A RACCOON has been sighted in Co Cork prompting an “invasive species alert” from the State’s wildlife authorities. Raccoons, which are native to North America, spread rabies and also carry a roundworm ( Baylisascaris procyonis) which can be lethal to humans.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre last night expressed “ significant concern” about the creature’s “potential to introduce new parasites and diseases that may affect human health and native species”.

The raccoon was spotted in Ballyvourney, southwest Cork, on Easter Monday. Householders, who do not wish to be named, had left out food for their cats. They took a photograph of the raccoon before it vanished. The sighting has now been verified by experts.

Colette O’Flynn, of the National Invasive Species Database, said: “This is the first sighting of a raccoon in the wild from anywhere in Ireland and it adds to the increasing trend in the numbers of pet species being reported from the wild.” While it was “illegal” to release such an exotic creature into the wild it was not illegal to own one. She appealed to members of the public living in the area to report any further sightings of the animal.

The creature was traditionally hunted for its fur and in American popular culture, 19th-century folk-hero Davy Crockett wore a hat with a raccoon tail.

Raccoons were introduced to parts of mainland Europe – but not to Ireland – for fur farming in the 20th century but some escaped, or were deliberately released, into the wild. Although not recommended, raccoons are sometimes kept as pets.