Valdez, V., Álvares, F., Layna, J. F., González, J.L., Herrera, J., Lucas, J., Louppe, V. & Rosalino, L. M. (2022) Raccoon (Procyon lotor) in Iberia: status update and suitable habitats for an invasive carnivore.Journal for Nature Conservation, 66, 126142. DOI:10.1016/j.jnc.2022.126142 (IF2021 2,575; Q2 Biodiversity Conservation)
Raccoons are American carnivores, considered invasive across several countries worldwide, especially in Europe. In the Iberian Peninsula, previous studies on raccoons documented several breeding populations in Spain a decade ago and only two confirmed records from isolated individuals in Portugal. Given the need for updating its Iberian distribution and identifying suitable areas with higher invasion risk, we compiled presence records from established breeding populations and isolated individuals. By using a Maxent approach based on breeding records, we forecasted the suitable habitats in Iberia with higher invasion risk for raccoons and identified the related environmental drivers. Overall, we collected 1039 records of raccoon presence throughout the Iberian Peninsula, including 980 records from established breeding populations. Their origin is probably linked to escapes from captivity. Climatic conditions, linked to both drier and wetter environments, and proximity to water bodies were the main predictors of suitable areas for raccoon’s expansion from the currently established breeding nuclei in Iberia. The forecasted high probability areas showed a wide, but fragmented distribution concentrated on four main areas: central, central-north, central-east, and north-west Iberia. NW Portugal seems to be the area with higher invasion risk in the country, although field surveys showed no evidence of raccoon presence yet. However, there are several records in Spain near the Portuguese border, comprising isolated individuals and breeding populations. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure regular monitoring of areas with high invasion risk, particularly those near facilities with captive raccoons that often act as a source of feral individuals, to assure early detection and effective control for the expansion of this invasive carnivore.