The raccoon dog, an omnivorous canine native to Siberia, Manchuria and Japan, has migrated over the years as far afield as Europe and Scandinavia. Although they rarely pose a threat to humans, officials in Sweden are determined to keep this invasive species from its shores.
The Swedish government has already managed to halt the influx of raccoon dogs moving in from Finland, but new fears have surfaced that these creatures may now swim across the Oresund from Denmark, according to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
The raccoon dog typically eats rodents, birds, frogs and lizards. But its appetite for wild berries is what is really worrying Swedish authorities. The country’s berry farming organisations are predicting losses of their berry harvests by up to SEK 600 million if the raccoon dog gets a foothold in Sweden.
The animal is also a known carrier of tapeworm and rabies. Sweden’s solution is to sterilise every raccoon dog they can catch and release them back into the wild with a radio transmitter. Since the creature is monogamous, authorities think it will lead them right to its mate, offering up another catch.
“When we catch a raccoon dog, we don’t kill it but sterilise it, attach a radio transmitter and send it out into the wild again. As raccoon dogs are monogamous, it will try to find another of its species – and it’s much better at doing that than we are,” Per-Arne Ahlen, a member of Sweden’s Raccoon Dog Project, explained to Dagens Nyheter.
Denmark’s approach to controlling its raccoon dog population is blunter: the Danish Forest and Nature Agency has told hunters to shoot to kill them on sight. Once these animals establish themselves in a territory they are very difficult to root out.