Raccoons are native to North America but were first introduced to the Caribbean Islands as early as 1650. They were then found in Germany in the 1930's and soon began to spread into the surrounding countries across Europe. They made their way over to Japan around the 1960's, and even over to the Middle East in the early 1990's! Their scientific name translates to "before the dog" and "washer." This is because raccoons catch their food and then wash it in rivers, or any bodies of water, before they consume it. They pretty much eat anything, including frogs, birds, bird eggs, and people's trash.
Raccoons are found on three continents, and scientists predict that raccoons will continue to spread across the globe thanks to a changing climate. A study published in Scientific Reports looked at what climate conditions are most suitable for raccoons in North America. They then continued their study abroad to find what environmental variables were likely to support the raccoons, and how that will change with warming temperatures through the years. They found that habitable conditions for raccoons are expected to expand north into northern parts of Asia, Europe, and farther north into Canada by 2050! Raccoons can out compete other species and eat a ton of food, which could cause significant environmental damage in these areas. "The species is able to cope with high diversity of environmental and bio-climatic conditions," says Vivien Louppe, author and researcher at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris. This means they can live and pretty much survive in any area, from tropical rainforests, deserts, dense forests, to the cold and snowy north.
As mentioned previously, raccoons could have a negative impact on ecosystems as they retreat further north. Louppe adds that the most concerning thing about their move north is the impact on northern woodlands, known as boreal forests. These ecosystems are very fragile and could suffer from an invasion of a new predator. This also holds true to the northern forests of Europe and Asia. According to Suzanne MacDonald, a professor at York University in Toronto, she mentions that "raccoons can completely upend whatever delicate balance is already there." Raccoons continue to spread through non-native areas and people have no idea what they have done by importing them.