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People in South Wales have been advised to avoid approaching a raccoon dog which has been loose in Wales for nearly a month.
The raccoon dog is a member of the canine family, though its face resembles that of a raccoon.
It was first reported missing on Monday by Natural Resources Wales, who said that the animal had escaped from its home, WalesOnline reports.
However, it had in fact already been loose in the wild for a number of weeks, with the only confirmed sighting of the creature being on January 21.
Though there has not been a sighting since, officials have said that it could have travelled up to eight miles through the Welsh countryside, and have warned people that it can be "unpredictable".
Now, residents around Powys in South Wales, where the raccoon dog was seen nearly a month ago, have been given leaflets to help them recognise the animal.
According to NRW: “Raccoon dogs will naturally range further in the wild and so could be seen more than eight miles away. They are small, nocturnal fox-sized animals, originally from East Asia that look like raccoons.
"Their diet includes fruit, insects, rodents, frogs, birds and eggs so they can have a negative impact on native wildlife.
“If you think you might have spotted one (dead or alive), or know where it might have escaped from please report this as soon as possible. As with any wild animal, their behaviour may be unpredictable and are not to be approached.”
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Though sightings of racoon dogs are rare in Wales, this is not the first time one has been spotted as one was seen in Carmarthenshire in the summer of 2020.
On this occasion the animal was captured and destroyed humanely as it could pose a threat to native flora and fauna, though the decision angered some who had argued it should have been re-homed.
Native to East Asia, raccoon dogs were introduced into Europe as a result of the fur trade where they have proved a menace to native species and are widely regarded as invasive.
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Raccoon dog fur has also previously been sold mislabelled as faux fur.
Although it is not illegal to keep a raccoon dog as a pet, the RSPCA "strongly discourages people" from doing this.
It is, however, illegal to sell and breed the animals since February 2019 as they pose a threat to native European species.
If anyone does spot the raccoon dog, they are asked to contact NRW immediately on 0300 065 3000.
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