MADRID – They are intelligent, adapt easily, and reproduce at lightning speed. These are the three elements why experts are concerned about the ever-spreading plague sweeping Spain; raccoons.
Around the year 2000, the story of the raccoon (in Spanish ‘mapache boreal’) began in Spain. A few residents of the municipality of Rivas-Vaciamadrid decided to bring some raccoons from North America to Spain in an attempt to keep them as pets. The domestication of these animals was disappointing and in 2003 several raccoons were discovered for the first time in a regional park southeast of Madrid.
Unknown how many raccoons live in Spain
Experts have not yet been able to count the number of raccoons in Spain. The largest population lives around Madrid, but raccoon populations are also increasing rapidly in other Spanish regions. It is clear that this animal reproduces at lightning speed. A female gives birth to four or five young at once. And after a year she can produce another litter.
Raccoons cause damage to ecosystems in Spain
Since they have no direct enemies in Spain, they can cause a lot of damage to existing ecosystems without too much effort. This is what various populations have been doing in recent years in Madrid, Castile La Mancha, Galicia, Valencia, the Basque Country, Andalucia (near Doñana), and even Mallorca. In addition, they carry various diseases and can transmit rabies, toxoplasmosis, or tuberculosis to humans, livestock, and pets, among other things.
Spanish government’s goal: to eradicate it completely
The cute image of raccoons in, for example, children’s films, does not match reality. Raccoons are wild animals, hunt at night, and can be very aggressive, making them unsuitable for living among humans.
Since 2013, they have therefore been regarded as an invasive alien species by the Ministry of Ecological Transition. The official document from the Spanish government shows that the goal is to completely eradicate the raccoon in Spain. In 2018, the last year with complete data, 814 specimens were captured in Madrid alone.
However, Spain is having a hard time fighting the ever-growing population. By luring the animals with food, various organisations in Spain try to catch them. However, this is far from sufficient to stop this plague.
Plan of the Spanish Ministry of the Environment
Research by the Ministry of the Environment in Madrid shows that the fishing capacity should be increased especially during the breeding season. To catch breeding females, this should be started before March in order to prevent the birth of offspring.