Flanders wants to get rid of the North American raccoon

While Wallonia is giving up the fight against the North American raccoon, Flanders is taking it up. "The aim is to eradicate the species from the region," says Jeroen Denaghel, spokesperson for the Flemish Agency for Nature and Forests.

Wallonia is home to 60,000 to 70,000 raccoons, an exotic species introduced from North America that has a major impact on the ecosystem. As raccoon traps are no longer on the regional border, these animals also find their way into Flemish forests.

The raccoon has been on the increase in Belgium for the past decade. It was first spotted here in the 1980s, but only since 2010 has it become more dominant. In Flanders, it is mainly found in the provinces of Limburg, Antwerp and Flemish Brabant.

Influx from Netherlands and Wallonia

The Flemish Agency for Nature and Forestry expects the number of raccoons to increase further due to the influx from Dutch Limburg and Wallonia. As the population in Flanders is still very small, estimated at a few dozen, the animal's permanent establishment in Flanders could still be prevented.

The European Union's recommendation for the species is eradication. "That is what we are trying to achieve in Flanders," Denaeghel told De Morgen. There is an early warning and rapid response policy, meaning the agency follows up on every raccoon report in Flanders. The animal is then caught, sterilised and taken to the Oudsbergen Nature Aid Centre. "If it turns out that the species cannot be removed, we switch to impact risk management," he says.

Oudsbergen Nature Aid Centre is a temporary shelter, and that is a problem. European parks and zoos are running out of space. If the animals have nowhere to go, the agency considers euthanasia the most animal-friendly option.

The raccoon is a North American half-bear that is present in much of Europe and Asia as a result of both accidental and planned releases. In Europe, raccoons were introduced primarily as a source of fur for the fur industry. In the 1930s, raccoons were released into the wild in central Europe. They are also kept as pets.


#FlandersNewsService | © IMAGO

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