By Eloise Horsfield

A RACCOON-CATCHING programme has been launched in Donana National Park after escaped pets threatened to wreak havoc on its eco-system.

Brought into Spain from north America as pets, raccoons are notorious for escaping and are even sometimes released by owners who decide they have had enough of them.

“When raccoons reach adulthood at the age of one, they become aggressive and start to smell bad,” explained Madrid biologist Jose Garcia.

Raccoons, who have no natural predators in Spain, reproduce quickly – with just two females and one male thought to be the origin of a 400-strong population in Madrid.

At Donana, not only could their presence be damaging to bird and amphibian populations – they can also carry parasites and infectious diseases such as rabies.

While previous evidence has only shown single sightings in Donana, Andalucia’s most important protected space, photos obtained recently of entire raccoon colonies rang alarm bells within the Junta.

A pilot project to trap the raccoons humanely has now been carried out in Donana, with 11 individuals caught within a month.

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