Raccoon sighting in Ireland

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Invasive species alert for: Procyon lotor (Linnaeus 1758)

Common name: Raccoon

Why the concern? The raccoon is listed as one of the 100 or the Worst Invasive Species in Europe (http://www.europe-aliens.org/). In April 2011, this species was seen in the wild in County Cork. This is the first record for Ireland or Northern Ireland. It is likely that this species has arrived in Ireland through the pet trade or trade in animals for zoos.

When racoon populations reach high numbers, they can impact on native biodiversity. The species is known to predate on bird nests and amphibians resulting in reduced breeding success. Racoons are also a carrier of the racoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) which can be dangerous to other species of mammals and birds. There is concern that this species could transmit infectious diseases to humans.

What does it look like? Raccoons have a distinctive masked face, greyish fur. The head is wide with big eyes and pointed muzzle. One of the most distinguishing features of the raccoon is its black or almost black mask that fully surrounds the eye region, reaching from the cheeks across the eyes and muzzle, and extending down the muzzle and up to the forehead.

Where might I see it? Raccoons can be found in many different types of habitats including urban areas and woodlands. Members of the public may see this species near houses and in housing estates.

Invasive status: This species is listed as being invasive in other European countries and a potential invader in the Invasive Species Ireland 2007 risk assessment.

Introduction status: Casual occurrence.  This species is not thought to be established in Ireland.

Distribution Frequency: Rare

Is there a reference specimen?: No. The species was confirmed from a photograph.

Actions taken to date: National Parks and Wildlife Service have been notified and regional staff are making local inquires.

Pathway of introduction: it is unclear how the raccoon arrived into  Ireland. It is likely to have been imported for the pet trade.

What can you do?:

If you think you have seen this species in the wild, if possible take a photo of it and submit a record of it to the National Biodiversity Data Centre or to Alien Watch.

View Press release issued jointly with Invasive Species Ireland