Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Raccoons Are Not Tanuki, But they Do Live in Japan

Saitama bids to put a lid on raccoon menace with special trap

The Asahi Shimbun  by TOMOHIKO KANEKO/ Staff Writer  March 13, 2018

A raccoon sticks a foreleg into an experimental contraption. (Provided by the Saitama Agricultural Technology Research Center)  

Plagued by destructive raccoons, the Saitama prefectural government has produced an innovative trap system which spares other creatures that venture too close.

Raccoons are native to North America and designated by the environment ministry as an “invasive alien species.”

They were were blamed for causing 16.1 million yen ($152,000) in damage to crops such as corn and grapes in the prefecture in fiscal 2016.

The trap, which was developed jointly by the Saitama prefectural government and a private company, is targeted specifically at capturing the dexterous critters and avoiding trapping relatively “clumsier” animals of other species, such as cats, in the process.

This cage trap is designed to catch raccoons alone. (Provided by the Saitama Agricultural Technology Research Center)
 
Prefectural authorities applied for a patent in December. The trap is due to be marketed from April.

Raccoons are found in nearly all areas of Saitama Prefecture, and 5,244 specimens were caught in fiscal 2016, more than double the corresponding figure five years earlier.

Officials had racked their brains over the problem as the rate of raccoon removal hardly made a dent in breeding numbers.

Conventional raccoon traps are inefficient because they also snare other animals, such as raccoon dogs and masked palm civets.

The prefectural-run Saitama Agricultural Technology Research Center spent two years working with a trap manufacturer based in Niigata Prefecture to develop a system, which relies on a tubular contraption installed inside a cage measuring 31 centimeters wide, 47 cm tall and 45 cm deep.

The cage is designed so that its entrance door is shut when a raccoon sticks a foreleg into the tube to grab bait.

The tubular contraption draws on the dexterity of raccoons.

The developers found in the testing stage that cats and badgers can insert their forelegs only to a depth of 16 cm into the tube, whereas raccoons can grab bait at a depth of 30 cm.

“Raccoons can apparently flex their elbow joint so deftly that their foreleg is up to the shoulder in the tube,” a research center official said.

The cage has been designed so that its door is closed when a foreleg is 17 cm into the tube.
During a test run that lasted for about a year, 20 raccoons were caught by the trap system, whereas no other animal was trapped.

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