Drunk raccoons with taste for ale are breaking into homes on p*ss across UK

Rowdy raccoons with a taste for beer and a knack for breaking into homes are setting up home in Britain in increasing numbers.

The mammals – native to North America and which have a bandit-style black stripe across their eyes – were first spotted in the UK in the 1970s after being released by pet owners.

Hardly any sightings were reported in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, but in the past 10-15 years sightings of raccoons in the wild have soared.

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The critters – which are masters at breaking into homes and bins, even raiding fridges for beer and snacks – were banned from being brought into the UK as pets in 2016 in a bid to stop the risk of escape or release into the wild.

Despite this, a number of raccoons have been spotted in England, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In the last 14 years, the number is believed to have soared, with estimates of 100s of the pests in the UK.

There are fears that if they mate, with females having an average of five babies – called kits – the UK could soon be in the same spot as Germany, where raccoons are a common pest.

Raccoons can live until the age of 20, although most raccoons in the wild only live around three years – often being hit by cars and being shot.

Bosses at the National Wildlife Management Centre warned as far back as 2016 that raccoons were in the ‘top 10’ list of invasive species – saying that by 2026 there was ‘real danger’ of them becoming a problem.

A spokesman said: “The common raccoon is one of the top ten highest risk future alien invasive species in Great Britain based on likelihood of arrival, establishment and impact on native biodiversity over the next ten years.”

Since then, the number of critters – which are often spotted drunk after fridge raids – has soared.

Parts of Europe are already awash with raccoons, with a large population in Germany, which imported the animals for fur in the 1930s.

Chiefs at the German Hunting Association say they culled more than 200,000 raccoons in the past year, with other populations in the wild found in France, Holland, Spain and Italy.

Raccoons – which can grow to 4ft long and weigh up to 60lb – and are one of the world’s most invasive species, with an estimated 1m living in Europe and around 200m in North America.

The nocturnal mammals have a nasty bite and can carry an array of diseases, including rabies – as well as being extremely agile and dextrous, able to open doors and take the lids off rubbish bins.

Defra are aware of the danger, calling raccoons a ‘predator and a menace’, and saying that if the number rose significantly it would create a ‘significant public nuisance’.

Dr Niall Moore, the head of the Non-Native Species Secretariat at The Food and Environment Research Agency, said: “If a population (or raccoons) were to establish, there would be a significant public nuisance.

“We know it’s going to cause a problem and we’ll endeavour to stop them.”

In a question raised in the House of Lords recently, a peer asked how many ‘non-native invasive species outbreaks’ had been identified in recent years.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble – John Gardiner, then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity – stated that raccoons were on the list.

Others on the list included the acrobatic ant, Asian super ant, and American lobster.

He said: “Invasive non-native species outbreaks since 2014 include several incursions of Asian hornet, as well as raccoon, coati, quagga mussel, various leafed water milfoil, acrobat ant, marbled newt, American comb jelly, Asian super ant, American lobster, argentine ant, gulf wedge clam and pacific salmon”

He said that ‘swift and effective’ action had been taken, but added: “In some cases, it has not been feasible to eradicate species.”

Government chiefs say that raccoons are ‘not established in the wild’, but that ’sightings of them have been reported since the 1970s’.

It adds: “Raccoons have faces with distinctive, dark bandit masks, pointed muzzles, and large ears. They have grey-brown fur with a bushy tail with four to six black rings.”

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