Raccoons take big bite out of crops

Kyodo

Raccoons caused ¥164 million in damage to agricultural produce in 16 prefectures in fiscal 2006, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Monday.

Hyogo Prefecture reported the most damage, saying ¥43.42 million worth of grapes and other produce was ruined. Hokkaido followed with damage reaching ¥27.82 million, centering on corn and melons.

Saitama suffered damage of ¥19.6 million, Osaka ¥18.7 million, Wakayama ¥16.6 million and Kanagawa ¥10.6 million, the ministry said.

Raccoons were blamed for damage when evidence such as tracks suggested their involvement, the ministry said. In fiscal 2004, raccoon damage was observed in only Hokkaido and five other regions.

Japan imported North American raccoons as pets in the 1970s when they became popular on an animated TV show. Many ended up being discarded or they ran away.

At the peak, Japan was importing more than 1,500 raccoons a year. The government has since banned importing them or keeping them as pets.

A nationwide study by the Environment Ministry has confirmed that raccoons live in at least 36 prefectures.