It might sound like a tall ‘tail’, but here is proof Sunderland is home to a raccoon.
And it is thought the animal has gorged on belly-busting takeaway waste and raided bins of rubbish to feast on after experts said it is as big as adults usually get.
Video footage of it was captured by special cameras set up by experts after Ray Forsyth and wife Lynne Wood spotted it in the back garden of their home earlier this month.
Now the nocturnal beast has been captured on video under the cover of darkness for all to see.
Ray, 52, a driver trainer for the North East Ambulance Service, said: “It was about a fortnight ago and Lynne was at work and I was watching TV and the security lights came on, and I thought it was next door’s cat and then there it was outside the window, a raccoon.
“I wouldn’t have been more surprised if it had been a space alien.
“Then on Sunday night I saw a dark shape in the garden and there it was, so I shouted for Lynne to come down and see it.
“I shone a big torch on it and it looked back, picked up whatever it had been eating and then went off into the trees.
“It didn’t seem fazed in the slightest.”
Ray, who is dad to Matthew, 27, Robert, 23, and George, 22, and Lynne, who is a part-time lecturer at Sunderland College in educational care and a driver for ERS Medical and is mum Emily, 21, Rhona, 19, and Kieran, 16, say their family have been thrilled by the discovery.
They’re very good at getting into bins and it’s probably been finding pizza and other food left on the streets.Dr Vivien Kent
“Everybody’s just said ‘wow’ and can’t believe we’ve got a raccoon,” added Ray.
“When we saw it on the video, I thought ‘Yes’ because I was vindicated.
“Lynne thought I had lost the plot to start with.”
The couple contacted the RSPCA, vets surgeries and Defra before they were passed on to Durham Wildlife Trust (DWT), which installed the camera kit as part of its Mamal Web project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It has pleaded with people not to lure in the raccoon by leaving out food because it has already been deemed a furry fatty.
They have also asked for the location of the sightings are not revealed, for fears people could try and trap it.
Dr Vivien Kent, who is the project officer for the study and a conservation officer for the organisation, said: “The best guess is that somebody got it as a pet, then worked out they don’t make very good pets at all.
“From the video, it looks pretty fat, it’s obviously been feeding well.
“They’re very good at getting into bins and it’s probably been finding pizza and other food left on the streets.
“We would ask people to try not and feed it because it’s already fat and if you feed it, it will come back into the garden, but it will push out other animals.”