A Derbyshire couple had a shock after finding a RACCOON trapped in their garden.
RSPCA inspector Helen Mead, who responded to the report that an animal was stuck between a shed and a greenhouse in a garden on Nuttall Close in Alfreton thought the caller was mistaken and the animal would be a badger.
But when she arrived at the property and saw the animal, she was shocked to find it really was a raccoon, a non-native species. The RSPCA have only picked up about six raccoons in the last five years.
Gordon Skelton, 78, who reported the incident, was equally surprised but he and wife Joan, 74, tried to keep the raccoon calm until the inspector arrived.
He said: "A neighbour who lives at the back of our house came round to say that she saw a raccoon on her garden and then it ran off and was stuck between the shed and greenhouse at the bottom of our garden
“I got my ladders out and went to have a look and I was surprised to see it really was a raccoon.
“I have only ever seen them on television or in books and certainly not something I would expect to come across in Derbyshire.
“We called the RSPCA who told us to keep an eye on him from a safe distance until an inspector arrived. He was a lovely creature and seemed happy enough.
“My wife named him ‘Rooney’ after the footballer, as she spoke through the fence to him to try stop him from getting frightened. She was quite taken with him.
“I was amazed how strong he was especially when the inspector tried to capture him but she did a great job.”
The raccoon was safely caught with a grasping pole and placed in a cage used for transporting badgers, before being taken to the RSPCA's Stapeley Grange wildlife centre in Chester, where he will stay until a specialist keeper can be found to care for him.
Helen said: “He was hard to catch because he was in such a tight space but I managed to squeeze my body through the gap and used the pole to grab him.
“He clearly didn’t want to be caught but I don’t think he was wild.I believe he may have been someone’s pet so am keen to find out who he belongs to.”
Raccoons are nocturnal mammals native to southern Canada, most of the United States, Central America and northern parts of South America.
The RSPCA is concerned that the animals continue to be kept as pets in England and Wales.
Llewelyn Lowen, scientific information officer at the RSPCA, said: “We urge people to think hard about taking on the care of any exotic pet - they can be much more difficult to care for than people realise. We would not recommend they take on the care of raccoons at all as they are simply not suited to a domestic environment.”
Raccoons are on the European Union's list of invasive alien species, due to the risk they pose to native wildlife. There are strict restrictions on keeping them and they can no longer be legally bred or sold.
Anyone who already owned a raccoon before the regulations were introduced in August 2016 is allowed to keep them.
Anyone with information about who the raccoon belonged to should call the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018.