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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Ruthless raccoons' rampage

Madrid is suffering from a serious raccoon infestation, and it’s all Disney’s fault. When Pocahontas was released in 1995, thousands of children took to their hearts Miko, the cute little raccoon. Parents went out and bought baby raccoons (kits, they’re called) by the score from pet shops. Unfortunately, raccoons are pack animals and as they grow to maturity tend to become aggressive if they haven’t got any females to court; they bite the hand that feeds them, which results in them being abandoned in the woods, where they can fend for themselves. Moral: wild animals don’t belong in cages and shouldn’t be kept as pets.
Raccoon-Wikipedia common
And fend for themselves they certainly do. Since 2007 over 400 specimens of this North American mammal have been captured in Madrid.

This raccoon is known to wash its food and has the Linean name procyon lotor, ‘dog-like washer’. IN German it’s called Waschbär (wash-bear), in French raton laveur (washer rat). The English and Spanish names, raccoon and mapache, come from the Native American languages in Virginia and Mexico respectively.
On average, raccoons live for five years; so the current burgeoning population are descendants of those let loose post-Pocahontas.

Raccoon-Wikipedia common

Raccoons cluster in packs of fifteen to twenty, drive out native species, such as the otter, and their bite potentially transmits rabies and other diseases.

The propagation of other invasive species includes the Argentine parrot and Kramer’s parrot – openly sold as pets until December 2011, the Florida turtle (which has been banned from sale in pet shops), and the American mink – also affects the ecosystem. Capture and kill policy is not an easy option; poison and other non-specific methods that affect the rest of the flora and fauna are banned; the use of firearms requires a permit. Still, after almost twenty years the authorities are waking up to this serious health problem.

Condensed from a report in El Pais by José Marcos, Madrid, November 2013.

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