Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 17:54 UK

Raccoon road surprise for couple

Raccoons are covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act

A raccoon has been spotted living in the wilds in Devon.

The creature was seen running across the road by Glenn and Beverley Bearne when they were driving home to Knowle, near Copplestone, on Saturday night.

It is not the first time the creatures have been spotted in the South West. In November 2003, the RSPCA captured a raccoon near Penzance in Cornwall.

The following year, two of the animals escaped from Combe Martin Wildlife Park in north Devon.

The park raised the alarm when it discovered the two young raccoons had disappeared in April, 2004.

The most distinctive thing was it had a long bushy tail with rings right around it
Glenn Bearne

A spokesman for the park said the creatures were later recaptured within the park's grounds.

Mr Bearne said: "It was such a really peculiar thing to see.

"We were coming back from a wedding we'd been at in Lew Trenchard when we saw it. It was about midnight.

"My wife said 'What do think that was?' and, as I'm fairly familiar with the wildlife round here, I knew it wasn't something I'd seen before."

The 57-year-old, who is retired, said he spent the next morning looking through his wildlife books and checking on the internet.

"My first thought was it was impossible in this country, but when I googled it, up came a BBC story about a raccoon being caught in Cornwall."

'Nasty bite'

The RSPCA said it was entirely possible that the animal seen by the Bearnes was a raccoon.

A spokeswoman said a number of raccoons have been captured by the charity in recent years.

She said raccoons were recently excluded from the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, so it was no longer necessary to have a licence to keep them.

"People should be very wary though, because they can give a nasty bite," the spokeswoman said.

Anyone seeing a racoon in distress should contact the RSPCA immediately, she said.

Any other sightings of the creature should be reported to Natural England.

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