Raccoons on the Rampage

Cute, furry, full of pluck and a danger to the environment, this is the latest opinion in Europe about the raccoon. The small mammal was brought to Europe in the 1970s as an exotic pet – a fact which would confuse most North Americans. Why would you want something which lives off rubbish as a pet? In the 40 years since their introduction, the animal has established itself and environmentalists are concerned.

Surprisingly, the raccoons appear to have been deliberately released. While young raccoons, known as kits, might be adorable, they can become aggressive when they get older, so people abandon them. A raccoon’s diet means that it can live in the city living where it can feed on garbage. They can also live in forests where they eat fruits and nuts as well as insects, birds’ eggs, small invertebrates and carrion.

The European country with the most to worry from raccoons is Germany. The animal could number in the millions, though other estimates place the population at around 400,000. In 2011, almost 70,000 individuals were caught, a record at the time.

In Germany, advocates of its control say the animal is a threat to native species. But one German zoologist has said raccoons do not threaten native species.

Raccoons also pose health risks. There is a chance of rabies infection from raccoons. Most of Europe has been designated rabies free. However, as recently as 2005, there was a case of rabies in Germany from an animal bite, though it was a fox. The country has since regained its rabies free status. Yet, rabies in raccoons has been found in Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Of course it would be alarmist to say raccoons are bringing a great risk of infection into Europe.

If you stem something you stop or slow it.

It’s clear that authorities are moving to stem any possible problems from raccoons. It is probably too early to talk about possible health or environmental risks. But, no species enters an ecosystem without having some effect, even if the animal seems happy living on garbage.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Cute and furry, but also a danger to the environment. This is what many people in Europe think about the raccoon. The small mammal was brought to Europe in the 1970s as an exotic pet. This is strange to many people in North America. Why would you want something which eats rubbish as a pet? In the 40 years since their introduction, the animal has established itself and environmentalists are concerned.

Surprisingly, the raccoons appear to have been deliberately released. While young raccoons, known as kits, might be adorable, they can become aggressive when they get older, so people abandon them. A raccoon’s diet means it can live in a city. It eats food people throw out.  Raccoons can also live in the forests where they eat fruits, nuts, insects, birds’ eggs, small invertebrates and carrion.

Countries have different answers to the raccoon problem. Spain only recently continued to allow the animals to be sold as pets. Now, authorities in Madrid are organizing a cull of the animal.

Raccoons also have health risks. There is the chance of rabies infection from raccoons. Rabies in raccoons has been found in Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine. But it is alarmist to say raccoons are bringing a great risk of rabies into Europe. But, raccoons from the US may be a problem. Many of them have rabies. The trade into Spain was not regulated, which means infection is possible.

If you stem something you stop or slow it.

Authorities are moving to stem any possible problems from raccoons. We should not say there are big health or environmental risks. But, no species enters an ecosystem without having some effect, even if the animal seems happy living on garbage.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Raccoons on the Rampage Quiz: Mild

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If something is pint-sized, it is small. The phrase comes ‘pint’ which is equal to about 600 milliliters.

Cute, furry, full of pluck and an absolute menace to the environment, this is the latest opinion about Europe’s pint-sized invader – the raccoon. The small mammal was brought to Europe in the 1970s as an exotic pet – a fact which would no doubt make most North Americans scratch their head. Why on earth would you want something which subsists on rubbish as a pet? In the 40 years since their introduction, the animal has established itself and environmentalists are concerned.

Surprisingly, the raccoons appear to have been deliberately released. While young raccoons, known as kits, might be adorable, they can become aggressive when they get older, so people abandon them. A raccoon’s diet means that it is perfectly suited to city living where it can feed on the scraps we leave behind. However, they are not just living garbage disposal units and can live well in the forests where they eat fruits and nuts as well as insects, birds’ eggs, small invertebrates and carrion.

The European country with the most to worry from raccoons is Germany. The animal could number in the millions, though other estimates place the population at around 400,000. In 2011, almost 70,000 individuals were caught, a record at the time.

Responses to the raccoon problem have varied. Spain only recently continued to allow the animals to be sold as pets. Now, authorities in Madrid are organizing a cull of the animal. In Germany, the animal has been a game animal since 1954. Advocates of its control argue that the animal is a threat to native species. According to an article in Der Speigel, raccoons in Germany are devouring pheasant and partridge eggs along with bats and even turtles. However one German zoologist has argued that raccoons pose little threat to native species.

Raccoons also pose health risks. Almost all raccoons are carriers of Baylisascaris procyonis, a type of roundworm nematode found in the gut of raccoons, whose feces can contain the parasite’s eggs. If the eggs enter another host organism, for example through food which has grown where the raccoons have defecated, the nematode can be very dangerous. It will bore its way into other tissue, even making its way to the brain. Fortunately, infection rates seem to be quite low in humans with only 13 cases reported since 1980.

Of greater concern to people is the chance of rabies infection from raccoons. Most of Europe has been designated rabies free. However, as recently as 2005, there was a case of rabies in Germany from an animal bite, though in this case it was a fox. The country has since regained its rabies free status. Yet, rabies in raccoons has been found in Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Of course it would be alarmist to suggest that raccoons are bringing a wave of infection into Europe. At the same time, raccoons from the US, of which many are infected, are cause for concern. Apparently the trade into Spain was not regulated, which certainly raises the specter of concern about infection.

If you stem something you stop or slow it.

It’s clear that authorities are moving to stem any potential problems from raccoons, so it might be premature to sound the alarm of impending health or environmental risks. At the same time, no species enters an ecosystem without having some effect, even if the animal seems happy living on garbage.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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