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Swedish hunters to target marauding raccoon dogs

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Swedish hunters to target marauding raccoon dogs
13:17 CEST+02:00
Swedish elk hunters have been encouraged to shoot on sight any raccoon dogs that they may chance across.

The Swedish National Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) has supported calls from the Swedish Hunters Association (Svenska Jägareförbundet) to target the animal which is described as a pest and has been compared to the American mink or the Spanish slug.

"This is good, we would rather that it is removed completely from the Swedish environment," Melanie Josefsson at the agency said.

The chances of a hunter coming across the beast, which resembles the raccoon in appearance but is no relation, are small as the animals are extremely rare in Sweden.

The Swedish authorities have in recent years led a successful fight to keep the raccoon dog population, which is indigenous to China, Korea and Siberian Russia, to a minimum.

"We think that it can be prevented from establishing itself as we have already begun to fight it at an early stage," Josefsson said.

But a new threat has emerged after over 20 recording sightings of the animal in neighbouring Denmark, with three occasions on record in 2008 alone.

Sweden now fears an amphibian invasion of the pest across the Öresund waterway between Copenhagen and Malmö.

The Swedes have previously taken a less ruthless approach to tackling the problem, employing instead a method of sterilization and tracking.

There are currently ten animals in Sweden carrying a radio transmitter inserted by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who are conducting a project on the species.

Hunters have been urged to shoot only those that have not yet been identified.

Once the raccoon dog establishes a population in a country's flora and fauna it can be very difficult to root out. The animal is a known carrier of tapeworm and rabies and can threaten species of birds.

Swedish animal protection legislation does not cover wild animals and therefore the raccoon dog can be freely hunted. There has however been no formal decision taken to exterminate the species, Lottie Göransson Uhrnell at the agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

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