NUMBERS of a raccoon-like animal are set to grow in Cumbria.

The coati – a Brazilian aard-vark – has set up home in the county and up to a dozen have paired up and are having young, according to a report.

The study by Eden Wildlife looked at official recorded sightings and population numbers of creatures introduced into the country during the past 150 years.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust also confirmed coatis were breeding and highlighted other exotic species of animals and plants which have set up home.

The Westmorland Gazette has reported a number of coati sightings in recent years with one being cornered in a hen house at Backbarrow and another spotted in trees at Kentmere.

Bekka Close, of the trust, said: “There are believed to be around 10 coatis living wild in Cumbria which will have escaped after once being kept in captivity.

“Although many of the non-native species introduced to the UK are welcome additions, there are a number of species that thrive in the UK climate and threaten our native plants and animals.”

Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and American signal crayfish are all invasive, non-native species, which have escaped into the wild.

The American crayfish has all but killed off the native white-clawed crayfish. But its last stronghold is Cumbria.

Ms Close said: “Once signal crayfish find their way or are introduced by us to water systems in Cumbria, this species will become extinct.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said releasing exotic pets and plants into the wild could cause ‘serious harm’, adding: “Rather than dumping things in the wild, we ask people to seek advice.”