Northern Ireland

Warning to Ballymena public over Rab the runaway raccoon

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Media captionRab the racoon escaped from a pet shop in Ballymena

The public has been warned not to approach a runaway raccoon in Ballymena, County Antrim.

Rab the raccoon escaped from a pet shop in the town.

Staff at Jungle World said Rab has been spotted at various locations across Ballymena, eating fast food leftovers, scraps from bins and even a pigeon.

The latest sighting was on Wednesday evening in the People's Park where Rab was seen eating the pigeon before disappearing into the undergrowth.

Staff at the pet shop have said they are keen to reunite Rab with his wife, Rita, and their four kits (young raccoons).

Police have confirmed they have received a report that a raccoon has escaped from a mini-zoo on Linenhall Street in Ballymena.

"The raccoon has since been spotted in the local area but it is not thought to pose a risk to people," a spokesperson said.

"However, members of the public are advised that the raccoon is defined as a dangerous wild animal and so it should not be approached.

"If you do see the raccoon please call police on the non-emergency number 101."

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has also been called in.

A DOE spokesman said: "NIEA was made aware that a raccoon had been spotted in the Ballymena area.

"Officials have visited the pet shop concerned and have given specific advice to the owner regarding suitability of enclosures. We would urge the public not to approach the animal.

"The raccoon is listed as a dangerous wild animal under the Dangerous Wild Animal (NI) Order 2004, and the private keeping of such an animal is regulated by this legislation.

"Dangerous wild animals may be held by registered pet shops but can only be sold on to private individuals with a licence from the DOE."

Raccoons are native only to North America, though they have been introduced to some parts of Europe.

They are nocturnal and tend to hide during the day.

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