County Cork Raccoon sighting prompts invasive species alert

County Cork raccoon threat probably exaggeratedA report in today’s Irish times reveals that state wildlife authorities have issued an invasive species alert after a raccoon was spotted in a garden in Balyvourney in County Cork on Easter Monday.

In a flurry of what can only be described as “over-enthusiastic” reporting the article cites that Raccoons, which are a native North American species “spread rabies and also carry a roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis ) which can be lethal to humans”.

While that may be true of wild North American raccoons, it is very improbably that an escaped exotic pet (which is the most likely explanation for the Co. Cork raccoon sighting) would be carrying either pathogen.

According to the Irish Times 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”.

While the introduction of any invasive species is bad news to local ecosystems, and a viable feral raccoon population in Ireland could have a devastating impact on local wildlife, a little perspective is called for in reporting such instances.

Raccoons have established themselves in parts of mainland Europe where they were originally introduced in relatively large numbers for fur farming in the 20th century. As with the mink in Ireland, enough of these captives escaped, and/or were released intentionally into the wild to establish viable self-sustaining feral populations.

The situation in Ireland is very different. Raccoons have never been kept here in large numbers… and the individual seen in Ballyvourney is almost certainly an escaped exotic pet. A lone individual is highly unlikely to cause significant damage to the local ecosystem, and has absolutely no potential of establishing a sustainable feral population.

About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of IrelandsWildlife.com. He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success

Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Perhaps it was a Ring-tailed Lemur a la Fota?? Bit of a trek mind.

  2. MudPuddles says:

    I’m baffled about the need to issue an “invasive species alert”… one ‘coon does not a viable population make, nor could it have a sufficient pathogen load to cause any significant threat to Irish wildlife or people. Racoons tend not to roam very far once they have a food source. On the radio this morning I heard that it has been seen feeding on pet food in people’s gardens, so it should be fairly easy to catch with a little effort. I’m really surprised at the daft over-reaction by the NWPS or NBDC in this case.

  3. Hi, I was in Erill Co. Laois near Galmoy mines when I seen a small feret like animal it had brown / reddish coat and a white breast it wasn`t a feret. Can anyone tell me what it could be. Half an hour
    later I see another one pulling a dead rat or small rabbit across the road.

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment. What you saw was almost certainly a stoat. Stoats are members of the mustelid or weasel family (as are ferrets). Stoats are formidable predators for their size, and adults will tackle prey much bigger than they are, like rats and even rabbits. The second animal could well have been carrying a prey animal, but female stoats also carry their young (called kits) from one den to another to keep them safe, so that could have been what you saw. You can read more about the stoat in our species profile.

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