RAMPAGING raccoons could soon invade Britain thanks to climate change.
The huge rodents have been known to attack pets and even children, and can carry the rabies virus.
Raccoons can be dangerous, particularly to pets and children[/caption]
Scientists say the adaptable scavengers have already expanded across three continents, including Europe and Asia.
Global warming could help their range grow considerably to the north, reaching northern Europe and the UK by 2050, according to new research.
Scientists at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris warned the invasion threatens to upend many of Europe’s delicate ecosystems.
“Raccoons can completely upend whatever delicate balance is already there,” Professor Suzanne MacDonald, an animal expert at York University in Toronto who was not involved in the research told National Geographic.
Global warming could help the raccoon’s range grow considerably in Europe[/caption]
“And they’re already finding that, in places like Japan.
“That’s because “they eat everything – small invertebrates, frogs, bird eggs, birds, small mammals, everything,” she added.
Native to North America, raccoons were introduced to Europe in the 1930s, and wild populations can be found in Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland.
The animals – which like foxes scavenge for their food while also eating small rodents and insects – are largely harmless, but can be dangerous if they get onto your property or home.
They are common carriers of rabies and other serious diseases that can be passed onto you and your pets.
Researchers used computer models to look at how climate change might help the raccoon spread.
They showed that huge swathes of the globe already boast the perfect conditions for raccoons, including most of England, Wales and Ireland.
If climate change continues, even colder, northern areas of Europe like Scotland will become the perfect place for raccoons to thrive by 2050.
The raccoon – quick facts
Here's everything you need to know…
- They are native to South and North America, but can be found in Asia and Europe too
- They have greyish fur, a long tail and a black mask around eyes
- Growing up to 2.5ft long, raccoons can weigh up to seven kilos
- They have hands very similar to a human’s
- This gives them fantastic dexterity that they use to open bins, doors and more
- Raccoons are largely harmless, but can be aggressive
- In North America, there have been numerous reports of raccoon attacks on pets and children
Raccoons are very adaptable, and can out-compete local wildlife wherever they invade.
As many as a million of the critters have invaded Germany, making a mess of vineyards and attics, and killing off local birds with their hunger for eggs.
Not much is known about the animal’s impact in Europe, “raccoons might seriously threaten native fauna,” Dr Agnieszka Perec-Matysiak, a researcher at Poland’s University of Wrocław, told National Geographic.
They also may pose a threat to humans if they enter the home.
One poor young girl from Michigan in the US had her face ripped off by a pet raccoon as she lay in her cot at just three months old.
Last year, a baby girl of four months was viciously attacked by a raccoon which dragged her out of bed while she was asleep in her Philadelphia home.
Pets can come into the firing line, too – there are numerous reports of raccoon attacks on cats and dogs in the US.
The study was published in Scientific Reports.
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In other news, Brits may have to eat bugs to help humanity dodge global food crisis, scientists find.
UK cockroaches are becoming superbugs that are ‘nearly impossible to kill’.
And, here’s the world’s worst insect stings and bites ranked by a scientist who gets stung on purpose.
Are you worried about a raccoon invasion? Let us know in the comments…
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