An “unpredictable” raccoon dog has been on the loose in the UK for almost a month and Brits are being warned not to approach the creature.
The potentially dangerous animal could have travelled miles, experts warn, and people are being urged to report any sightings.
The Mirror previously reported how the potentially dangerous and invasive wild species normally found in East Asia is roaming the UK countryside.
In 2019, we reported that a village in Nottinghamshire was “under siege” after two “absolutely mad” raccoon dogs had escaped from an enclosure. Police said at the time that the dogs were “potentially dangerous” after villagers spent two hours chasing off the snarling and hissing creatures after they were woken by a “blood curdling scream”.
Now WalesOnline reports that people in a rural part of Wales are being urged not to approach a raccoon dog which has now been on the loose for almost a month.
The creature, a member of the canine family despite having a face more similar to that of a raccoon, was first reported missing by Natural Resources Wales on Monday who said it had escaped from its home. In fact, it had already been in the wild for several weeks.
The only confirmed sighting of the animal thus far happened on Friday, January 21.
There have been no further sightings of the raccoon dog, but officials believe it could have travelled as far as eight miles by itself in the Welsh countryside, and warned people of its “unpredictable” nature.
Leaflets have been distributed to locals in the area in and around Colebren in Powys, where the animal was seen almost a month ago.
According to NRW: “Raccoon dogs will naturally range further in the wild and so could be seen more than eight miles away. They are small, nocturnal fox-sized animals, originally from East Asia that look like raccoons. Their diet includes fruit, insects, rodents, frogs, birds and eggs so they can have a negative impact on native wildlife.
“If you think you might have spotted one (dead or alive), or know where it might have escaped from please report this as soon as possible. As with any wild animal, their behaviour may be unpredictable and are not to be approached.”
Rural people are alarmed at warnings not to approach the wild raccoon dogs which have mysteriously appeared in Wales and previously terrorised locals and attacked animals in Nottinghamshire.
In July 2020, one of the wild, fox-like creatures was captured and “humanely destroyed” in Carmarthenshire, something which caused anger among some, who said the animal should have been rehomed. This was only the second such sighting of a raccoon dog in Wales.
It is not illegal to keep a raccoon dog as a pet, but the RSPCA “strongly discourages people” from doing so, and since February, 2019, it is actually illegal to sell the animal because they pose a risk to native species in Europe. It is also illegal to breed them.
The raccoon dog is closely related to the fox and is a member of the canine species despite having a face similar to that of a raccoon. It is the size of a medium-sized dog.
They could bite if they feel threatened by approaching humans.
The animal is regarded as an “invasive species” that is native to the forests of China, Japan, Korea, Siberia and Vietnam.
It is particularly distinctive due to being “extremely smelly”. Authorities fear people have been keeping them as pets which has led to them roaming the countryside.
According to the RSPCA, the dog – also known as a ‘tanuki’ – is “not suited to life as a pet in a domestic environment”.
A spokesman for the charity said: “Raccoon dogs are not domesticated pets. They need a great deal of space and their needs simply cannot be met in a typical household. They’re also extremely smelly, as they use scent to communicate with one another.”
The RSPCA has said that it has taken in ‘pet’ raccoon dogs in the past after the animals were no longer wanted by their owners, most probably the result of the raccoon dog “becoming unmanageable”.