Two raccoon dogs have been spotted on the loose in rural England.
The animals are runaway pets that had broken free from an enclosure in Clarborough, Nottinghamshire during the early hours of Tuesday morning, in what we can only imagine was some kind of "Great Escape"-type extravaganza. Police have warned locals to be on the lookout and to keep their distance in case of any chance encounters with the canids.
Raccoon dogs – indigenous to East Asia – can be aggressive, East Bassetlaw Police warned in a statement posted on Facebook.
"The animals, which are described as being the same size of a medium- to small-sized dog, are potentially dangerous if approached as they are not domesticated."
So far, the fugitives have been accused of confronting a horse, assaulting a goat, and attempting to attack a dog. But their owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, wants people to know they don't pose a serious threat.
"They have escaped and that is my mistake but it's important people don't think these animals are especially dangerous," he told the BBC.
"I have been up through the night, I've been really grateful for the help given and offered, and it's been hard work."
The animals have so far evaded capture despite the cages and cameras that have been used to lure them in. The owner suggests using drones and thermal imaging instead.
In spite of their appearance, raccoon dogs – also (adorably) named tanukis – are canids. Indeed, they are the only species of canid known to hibernate.
They are native to the forests of eastern Siberia, northern China, northern Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, and feast on an omnivorous diet of fruit, nuts, insects, rodents, amphibians, birds, fish, mollusks, and carrion.
But their cute appeal has led to raccoon dogs becoming a popular pet choice for people looking for something a little more "exotic" than a labrador – a trend the RSPCA, a UK-based animal welfare charity, actively encourages against.
In spite of their small size and canine heritage, these animals are not suited to a domestic environment and need a large space to roam. Plus, they smell bad.
"Raccoon dogs are wild animals – rather than domesticated pets," the RSPCA explains.
"They're also extremely smelly, as they use scent to communicate with one another (not the best quality in a house pet!)."
Many ex-pets have been released into the wild (intentionally or not) where they have multiplied, creating a big problem for the native wildlife. Today, they can be spotted in several countries across Europe, including Germany, France, and Finland, where an estimated million cubs are born each and every year.
In the UK, the government passed a law making it illegal to breed or sell raccoon dogs.
[H/T: Lincolnshire Live]