Since August 3, 2016, EU Exotics Regulation 1143/2014 applies to a number of harmful exotic plants and animals – called Invasive Alien Species (IAS). For each species on this list, extensive research has been carried out, particularly into its harmfulness. One of the mammals on this list – the so-called Union list – is the raccoon (Procyon lotor). As an EU member state, the Netherlands is legally obliged to permanently remove this invasive exotic species from the wild. This is to prevent the raccoon from settling here and causing damage to native species. In the Netherlands, provinces are obliged to organize this control. How they do this is up to them. AAP fears that this fragmentation does not contribute to an effective approach and advocates a (inter)national policy for invasive exotics. But as long as that is not the case, we urge the provinces to adopt the most animal-friendly policy possible combined with an offer to take in animals. Accepting that raccoons roam unhindered is against the law and removing the raccoon from the EU Exotic Species Regulation is not a realistic option.
This is a moral issue. AAP does not think it is right to kill healthy animals that can’t do anything about the fact that they have been released in Europe. That is why we offer shelter and try to outplace the animals. Zoos, unlike most private keepers, are perfectly capable of providing good conditions for raccoons. The animals are very inventive, adapt very quickly and can have a good life in a zoo. If a life in the wild is not possible, we think this is the best alternative. This solution also fits in well with the exotic species regulation, which states that the animals must be spared all avoidable pain, strain and suffering during control.
When provinces opt for an animal-friendly approach and thus give substance to compulsory policy, it is only reasonable that the costs of AAP are (partly) reimbursed. At that moment we are a partner of the provincial government and implement that policy. The costs passed on are our net costs for sterilization, worming, other medical treatments and checks during the quarantine period and 30 days of care in the mammal department. Most raccoons stay longer at AAP. Those extra costs are covered by our donors. In short; on balance the compensation from the provinces does not cover costs. Let alone that we have money left over from it.
In Germany, the raccoon is already officially established and therefore falls into a different category than the Netherlands. It is no longer realistic that all these animals can be removed, but Germany is obliged to ensure that the animals do not spread to other EU member states, such as the Netherlands (see Art. 19 IAS Regulation). The risk assessment and approach is therefore different for each country. The raccoon poses a threat to valuable native species in many areas, for example meadow birds and ground-breeding birds that are protected in the Netherlands. AAP therefore supports the policy to prevent raccoons from settling here, but also sees it as its task to advocate for an animal-friendly alternative to shooting.
That’s right, even if it’s not an issue for the time being. In Limburg, the Mammal Society has been catching raccoons in the wild since October 2019, and so far less than ten a month are being caught. At this rate, AAP can handle the influx just fine. As long as there is room at AAP and at relocation partners, there is no reason to stop this approach until small local populations are removed. In Gelderland it is estimated that there are still a dozen raccoons left, which could be taken care of without any problems. Research has shown that the animals that have been caught in Limburg so far are not related to the German population. So there is no question of ‘mopping up the mess’ and no need to use animal-unfriendly pesticides against raccoons in the Netherlands.
When there are no longer small, local groups of raccoons but a growing population settling in the Netherlands from surrounding countries, shelter in its current form is no longer sufficient. But even if shelter and relocation no longer suffice, AAP is still against culling. In Germany, where more than 200,000 raccoons were shot in 2020, the population is growing by 15-20% annually and appears to be unmanageable. Also, a lot goes wrong during hunting and other animals (such as badgers) can be killed by mistake. Or animals are merely injured with all the suffering that entails. AAP hopes for a breakthrough in the field of practical contraception, which is the subject of much research worldwide. However, an ideal solution is not yet on the table.
Anyone who sees (traces of) a raccoon can report this with a photo and location on www.wasberenmeldpunt.nl. If it turns out that it is indeed a raccoon, an attempt will be made to catch the animal alive with a trap cage. Should you come across such a trap cage in the wild, stay away from it. A captured animal in a trap cage equipped with a sensor will be quickly transferred to a shelter.