Monday, December 2, 2013

Davy Crockett had the right idea

He knew that the lil raccoon was a pest best worn as a hat;
Just previous to Christmas 1995, Miko, a cute little Disney raccoon, enchanted many Madrid children in the film Pocahontas. Many parents solved the Christmas gift problem by going out and buying a cute little furry kit raccoon (the young are known as kits).
Talk about biting off more than you knew, the animals are vicious and transmit rabies. Which the Spanish realized too late, and put their pets out to terrorize the countryside. It's now a Rocky road for the masked marauders;
One of Miko's cute quirks is that of washing his food, and it is for this curious habit (variously explained) that the species, native to North America, is best known. Procyon lotor, its Linnaean name, means roughly "dog-like washer." In German it is called Waschbär (wash-bear), in French raton laveur (washer rat). The English and Spanish names, raccoon and mapache, come from Native American languages in Virginia and Mexico respectively.
What was initially seen as a "potential danger," with 15 individuals caught in 2007, has burgeoned into a serious problem for the ecosystem, with captures rising steadily since then.
"Raccoons live five years on average, so the animals we are now catching are descendants of the ones that were released here when they matured, or else they escaped," says the head of the regional environment department, Borja Sarasola, who notes their particular skill at getting out of cages.
Madrid is not alone in its problem with these intelligent and adaptable little carnivores. Escaped pets have proliferated around several cities in Europe and Japan. In Russia the raccoon was once methodically introduced with a view to hunting it for fur, and is now common from the Caucasus to Moscow. 
Maybe re-introducing another old Disney flick would give Europe a solution.

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