The Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor) is not native to Spain, and it is not officially recognized as a wild species in the country. However, there have been occasional sightings of raccoons in some areas of Spain, particularly in urban and suburban areas where they may have been introduced as pets or escaped from captivity. In Spanish its is called a mapache
The presence of raccoons in Spain is considered a potential threat to the local biodiversity and ecosystems, as they are opportunistic omnivores that may compete with native species for resources and transmit diseases to other animals. In addition, raccoons may cause damage to agricultural crops, infrastructure, and property.
In Spain, incipient populations and scattered individuals are appearing. There are established populations around Madrid since 2003, which are being controlled. There are populations in Castilla la Mancha and also in Galicia. Five individuals have been detected in the Valencian Community. They also seem to have appeared in the Basque Country and 11 individuals were extracted near Doñana in Andalusia. Some individuals have also been located in the Balearic Islands.
Control and eradication
To prevent the establishment of raccoon populations in Spain, the import, possession, and trade of raccoons are strictly regulated and prohibited by law. (Real Decreto 630/2013, 2 August in the Catálogo Español de Especies Exóticas Invasoras). In cases where raccoons are found in the wild, authorities may take measures to capture and remove them to prevent their spread and potential impact on the environment.
Their eradication can be difficult. Therefore, it is necessary to develop control measures in the early stages of invasion. Before the ban on importing the common raccoon (procyon lotor) came in to force (2013), the trade as a pet caused a surge in escapes and releases of these animals. It is an inappropriate animal to keep in captivity, since it is nocturnal, very active, and can be aggressive.
- Raccoons were sold in pet shops as recently as 2011.
- Those which escaped or were abandoned have proliferated rapidly.
- Raccoons were first seen in the Madrid area in the early 1970’s.
Efforts are also underway to raise public awareness about the potential risks of introducing non-native species into the country and the importance of responsible pet ownership and wildlife management. In general, it is important to prevent the introduction of invasive species into new areas and to manage their populations to minimize their impact on the environment and the native wildlife.
Habits and problems asociated with the Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and its introduction into Spain
The raccoon is a generalist and opportunistic omnivore, voracious, with nocturnal and crepuscular habits. It feeds on fruits, insects, bird eggs, chicks, fish, crustaceans, insects, small mammals, garbage, carrion, etc. It inhabits wooded areas, preferably near watercourses. It adapts very easily to different environmental conditions, establishing itself both in the natural environment and in rural and urban areas. It is a very skilled climber, good swimmer, and quite agile. Its trophic niche is broad, and its diet is determined by the availability of different trophic resources. Adult males are solitary and territorial but may occasionally roam in groups. Females are more gregarious, although groups are usually family-based.
- Ecological impact: Predation on nests of native species, some of which are rare or threatened, such as turtle nests, river crabs, etc. Competition for the same ecological niche as other native species, such as foxes, otters or badgers.
- Economic impact: Damage to agriculture and aquaculture, in fish farms, and predation on poultry.
- Health impact: It is a carrier of various parasites, such as Baylisascaris procyonis and other pathogenic agents. 2) It is a transmitter of several diseases, such as rabies.
- When threatened, it can be very aggressive.
Possible confusion with other species in Spain
It is possible to differentiate the silhouette of the raccoon from that of other animals that it could be confused with by looking at its grayish-brown fur, a characteristic black mask in the shape of a “bandit mask” around the eyes, with a white muzzle and eyebrows, and the tail with 5-7 black rings.
- Common Genet (Genetta genetta): also has a ringed tail, but it is longer and has 8-10 rings, and the body has black spots.
- European Badger (Meles meles): has a shorter, whitish tail, lacking dark rings; the badger’s facial mask forms two black bands that go from the muzzle to the ears.
In this study we present the results of a baseline study designed to assess the status of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) throughout Spain. The species was reported in 28 localities, mostly consisting of sporadic observations of single individuals. In central Spain an apparently thriving population of raccoons has been recently discovered. Our data confirmed the spread of feral raccoons throughout this region, where the species has already colonized about 100 km of streams and rivers. Predation on local fauna was also proved, and the first approximation for spatial movement and habitat use analyses in Spain is presented. Our results suggest that deliberate releases of raccoons by pet owners are an important cause for the existence of feral raccoons in Spain. Further research should focus on monitoring established individuals to collect detailed data on their population and reproductive parameters. Meanwhile, urgent actions should be taken to stop releases into the wild and to control and eradicate this unwelcome invasive species. Full study here: https://digital.csic.es/handle/10261/143536
INaturalist have an excellent article about raccoons in general: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/41663-Procyon-lotor
Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/
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