Animal planet: A single pine marten but a ‘plague’ of raccoons

Summary

While Germany’s raccoon problem is heading west, a single pine marten in the Sonian forest made headlines this week

Pragmatism, your name is raccoon

Flanders will soon be besieged by a “plague” of raccoons, according to VRT news, which paid a visit to the wildlife rehabilitation centre in Oudsbergen, Limburg. The centre has seen an increase in the number of raccoons brought in by citizens who have come across them on their property.

Raccoons are very smart and versatile animals, capable of making their way into garages, houses, garbage bins and chicken coops, in search of food. They’ll eat practically anything, including eggs – and chickens. “Over the last few months, we’ve seen seven or eight here, which is definitely an increase,” the centre’s Sil Janssen told VRT.

Raccoons originated in the US and were brought to Europe – specifically Germany – in the 1920s to farm for their pelts. They quickly multiplied; Germany is now home to one million of them. Wallonia also has its fair share, and they are now heading north to Flanders in greater numbers, according to Janssen.

“They are a problem for our native species,” confirms Janssen. “They take over nests, they eat squirrels … and eventually they will cause damage to people’s homes. We see that in Germany. They’re actually animals that we’d rather not have around.”

Rich Sonian

The EU classifies raccoons as an “invasive alien species” and are therefore allowed to be hunted. But it doesn’t really help, according to Janssen. “If you’ve got a group of 10, and you managed to shoot two, the rest will be sure to have more babies than they otherwise would,” he said.

As for the raccoons taken in by the Limburg wildlife centre, they are sterilised and sent to an animal park in France.

A furry mammal that is not making a lot of inroads in Flanders, meanwhile, is the pine marten. While native to Europe, it sticks to regions with expansive forests and is almost never seen here.

So Natuurpunt’s video footage of one of the creatures, which belongs to the mustelid family of mink, otter and weasels, made headlines yesterday. A pine marten was caught by one of its video cameras scampering around in the dark in the Sonian forest.

The forest crosses through all three of Belgium’s regions, and the marten was – just barely – in the Flemish portion. Natuurpunt was happy to see the animal as it is a sign that the Sonian is becoming a forest rich in natural diversity.

Photo: The raccoons are coming!
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