Regulated invasive species of Union concern under the European Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species [1147/2014].
First reported in the wild
Invasive species - risk of High Impact
Present in the wild
Introduction pathways - 1
Escape from Confinement
Introduction pathways subclass - 1
NAPRA Ireland risk assessed
Cat sized omnivorous mammal with distinctive black and white face, tail with black rings.
Raccoons are carriers or possible carries of a large number of disease such as West Nile virus, rabies, canine distemper, as well as carrying the zoonotic roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm) (Beltrán-Beck, et al., 2013). Raccoons in Polish wetlands and forest were found to consume 44% mammals, 41% other vertebrates, 12% invertebrates and only 1% eggs and 16% birds (Bartoszewicz et al., 2008), though raccoons show high behavioural plasticity and effects in Ireland are unlikely to follow a similar pattern.
Woodland, forest and other wooded land; Constructed, industrial or other artificial habitats; Regularly or recently cultivated agricultural, horticultural or domestic habitat; Heath, scrubland & tundra
Generally 1 litter per year producing 2-4 young (Winter, 2009).
Pathway and vector description
Most likely source of individuals in Ireland and subsequent introductions are pets, either deliberately released or escaping from confinement. Two populations in Spain of 30+ individuals were estimated to have a founder population of 2-4 individuals (Alda et al., 2012) suggesting that a small number of breeding individuals would allow a population to become established in Ireland.
Mechanism of impact
Competition, Predation, Disease transmission, Other
There is currently an EU wide ban on the sale of this species and personal and zoo ownership is being phased out (European Commission, 2017).
Control is possible in isolated areas with small numbers of raccoons. Once invasion is in full progress the risk of a compensatory response to culling (by an increase in the reproductive rate) increases (Kotani et al., 2009). Most effective control is achieved outside the breeding season when the animals spend more time outside in the open (Harfenist et al., 2000).
Commonly used methods in Europe are hunting (sometimes with dogs) and live-trapping. However, these efforts do nothing to reduce the expansion rate of this species (Bartoszewicz, 2011). Zalewski (personal observation in Zalewski, 2011) considers trapping to be more effective than hunting. However, on rocky Canadian islands in order to protect nesting seabird colonies, eradication has been achieved by shooting. This method was used over trapping or hunting with dogs due to the inability of man and dogs to cross the difficult terrain. Shooting was carried out from boats at night using a spotlight (Harfenist, et al., 2000)
Can occupy a range of habitats and though not an obligate commensal often found in association with humans and in urban areas in both its introduced and native range (Winter, 2009).
Distribution frequency in Ireland
Present in the Wild - Rare/Localised. Species can survive in the wild but unlikely to have established a breeding population due to scattered nature of records.
Native to North America from southern Canada to Panama, have been introduced to a large part of continental Europe, as well as Russia and Japan (Winter, 2009).
Date of first record category
Fifty year date category
Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021
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How can you help
Report any sightings to the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe (DAISIE) project list the raccoon as one of the 100 Worst Invaders in Europe.
Alda, F., Ruiz-López, M. J., García, F. J., Gompper, M. E., Eggert, L. S., & García, J. T. (2013). Genetic evidence for multiple introduction events of raccoons (Procyon lotor) in Spain. Biological invasions, 15(3), 687-698.
Bartoszewicz, M., Okarma, H., Zalewski, A., & Szczesna, J. (2008, August). Ecology of the raccoon (Procyon lotor) from western Poland. In Annales Zoologici Fennici (Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 291-298). Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing.
Bartoszewicz, M. (2011): NOBANIS – Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet – Procyon lotor – From: Online Database of the European Network on Invasive Alien Species – NOBANIS www.nobanis.org Site accessed 17 October 2017.
European Commission. (2017). Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern. European Union, Luxembourg.
Harfenist A., MacDowell K. R., Golumbia T., Schultze G. (2000). Monitoring and control of raccoons on seabird colonies in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). In: Darling L. M. (ed.) Proceedings of a Conference on the biology and management of species and habitats at risk. Makloops, B.C. 1999. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/ce18harfenist.pdf Site accessed 18 October 2017.
Kotani K, Ishii H, Matsuda H, and Ikeda T (2009) Invasive species management in two-patch environments: agricultural damage control in the raccoon (Procyon lotor) problem, Hokkaido, Japan. Population Ecology 51:493-504. https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/23438/1/MPRA_paper_23438.pdf Site accessed 17 October 2017.
Winter, M. (2009) Procyon lotor (Linnaeus), racoon (Procyonidae, Mammalia) In: Handbook of Alien Species in Europe .DAISIE, Springer.
Zalewski (2011). GB Non-native Organism Risk Assessment for Procyon lotor. http://www.nonnativespecies.org/index.cfm?pageid=143 Site accessed 17 October 2017.