An animal lover from Portadown, who came to the rescue of a raccoon found in a bin in Lurgan, has had the animal taken from her by police.
However, Elaine McCreery, who runs C&J’s Animal Park on the Derryall Road, is confident the raccoon will be back with her early next week.
Since turning up in a bin in Lurgan it would appear the poor animal has become entangled in red tape.
With the owner failing to come forward, the person who found the raccoon last Monday, knowing he hadn’t the facilities to look after the animal, got in contact with the police who in turn contacted the relevant authorities including Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Ulster Wildlife and Craigavon Council.
However, inaction on behalf of the authorities caused him to call several local animal shelters in the hope they could take it off his hands.
Last Wednesday morning, Elaine came to his aid.
Elaine said, “I came over with my daughter Christine after I got a call about a raccoon that had been found in a bin.
“It growled a bit, but didn’t try to bite. It has definitely been somebody’s pet. It was very tame.”
The raccoon stayed at C&J’s on Wednesday and Thursday, but on Friday two policemen accompanied by a vet came and took it away.
“There were two policemen so I didn’t argue with them,” said Elaine.
“It didn’t eat or drink anything when it was here. It needs time to settle into a new environment. These last few days its been moved about too much.”
She said, “The good news is we’re getting it back. We’d feared it would be put down.
“They’ve been out to check the facilities. They wanted us to put tin on the floor so it couldn’t escape. It’s a raccoon for goodness sake, not a bear!”
When asked about the raccoon, NIEA issued a statement which made the raccoon sound like something of a criminal.
A Department of the Environment spokesperson, commenting on behalf of NIEA, said, “The animal has been seized by the PSNI. DoE is unable to make further comment at this stage.”
Perhaps the red tape and secrecy arises from the fact that if the raccoon, one of the worst invasive species in Europe, was to breed in the wild it would have a catastrophic impact.
Conor McKinney, living landscapes manager with Ulster Wildlife commented, “If this species were to establish a population in the wild it would have a catastrophic impact on our local wildlife. In addition, there is potentially an animal welfare issue here.”
Mr McKinney said now that TACT wildlife centre in Crumlin is closing down there was a concern there is a lack of wildlife rescue service in Northern Ireland.
The raccoon’s plight has highlighted a case of there being too many cooks and too much red tape when it comes to animal rescue in this country.
Whether he ends up back in Portadown remains a mystery, but this raccoon has certainly got a tale to tell, that is, if he ever gets to stay in the one place long enough to tell it.