The raccoon found in a bin on the Lough Road last week has ended up in a new quandary.
It would appear the poor animal has become entangled in red tape.
With the owner failing to come forward, the person who found the raccoon last Monday, knowing he hadn’t the facilities to look after the animal, got in contact with the police who in turn contacted the relevant authorities including NIEA, Ulster Wildlife and Craigavon Council.
However, inaction on behalf of the authorities caused him to call several local animal shelters in the hope they could take it off his hands.
On Wednesday morning, Elaine McCreery, who runs C & J’s Animal Park in Portadown, came to his aid and also cleared up any doubt about what sort of animal it was.
Elaine said: “I came over on Wednesday morning with my daughter Christine after I got a call about a raccoon dog that had been found in a bin. I knew straight away that it was a raccoon, not a raccoon dog.
“It growled a bit, but didn’t try to bite. It has definitely been somebody’s pet. It was very tame.”
The raccoon stayed at C and J’s on Wednesday and Thursday, but on Friday two policemen accompanied by a vet came and took it away.
“There were two policemen so I didn’t argue with them,” said Elaine. “It didn’t eat or drink anything when it was here. It needs time to settle into a new environment. These last few days its been moved about too much.”
She said: “The good news is we’re getting it back. We’d feared it would be put down. We will have to keep it quarantined for four months.”
However, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency weren’t so enthusiastic about the raccoon coming back to Portadown. They issued a very short statement which made the raccoon sound like something of a criminal.
A Department of the Environment spokesperson, commenting on behalf of NIEA, said: “The animal has been seized by the PSNI. DoE is unable to make further comment at this stage.”
Perhaps the red tape and secrecy arises from the fact that if the raccoon, one of the worst invasive species in Europe, was to breed in the wild it would have a catastrophic impact.
Conor McKinney, Living Landscapes Manager with Ulster Wildlife commented: “If this species were to establish a population in the wild it would have a catastrophic impact on our local wildlife. In addition, there is potentially an animal welfare issue here.”
Going to press, none of the authorities was able to reveal the raccoon’s location.