EXOTIC animal specialists are trying to capture a 'dangerous animal' after a walker spotted what she thought was a raccoon dog in a popular woodland.

Claire Spencer, a member of Reading's largest dog owner community, said she is helping a team of exotic animal specialists track down the animal after it was spotted last week.

The 'dangerous' raccoon dog was reportedly seen by a dog walker in Bramshill Forest in Basingstoke, a popular spot among dog walkers in Reading.

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Reading Chronicle:

Claire said: "I saw a woman post on Reading Dog Owners that she was walking her dog last Saturday when she came across a raccoon dog. A friend of mine has a lot of knowledge, they're dangerous to the environment, eat fish, amphibians - they are an invasive species.

"They damage fauna and flora and they need to be banned. They can be dangerous and attack dogs if they're cornered or confronted."

The furry mammals, known as the tanuki, are native to the forests of eastern Siberia, northern China, North Vietnam, Korea, and Japan but are now widespread in some European countries, having been accidentally released as part of the fur trade.

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Their cute appearance has also seen people keep them as exotic pets and Claire believes this one may have 'lived with humans'.

She said: "There are some guys coming down from London with thermal imaging to try and find them. I had a wildlife camera put in the forest too but it hasn't been triggered so it's going to be a needle in a haystack to find it."

According to the Mammal Society, which is asking the public to report any sightings, the omnivores could pose a threat to rare native species including amphibians, small mammals and ground-nesting birds.

Raccoon dogs are also dangerous to humans and potential vectors for disease such as rabies or novel parasites.