A GAZE of raccoons has found a new home after the animal sanctuary they were living in had to closed.

Itsy, Bitsy, Tonto and Ranger are settling in well at East Durham College's Houghall campus, on the outskirts of Durham.

Alongside two raccoon dogs, the quartet have been housed in the college's purpose-built animal care centre.

Craig Sproat, lecturer in animal care at the college, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity for the college to rehome these raccoons.

"Not only do we help some animals in need, but this further expands the experience of our students, by allowing them to care for and interact with unusual animals here at the college, just like these raccoons and raccoon dogs.”

Students from the college worked with Dere Street Homes and Deerness Fencing & Landscaping Ltd, which is part of the Esh Group, to build a new enclosure for the furry arrivals.

The companies donated the materials needed and designed and installed the enclosurE.

Jim Bates, managing director of Deerness Fencing & Landscaping and Sean McQuaid, managing director of Dere Street Homes, came up with the design and provided a team to construct the enclosure, which was completed just before Christmas.

The raccoons and raccoon dogs have now settled into their new home.

Lindsay Haggis, curriculum manager of land-based studies, said: “From all of us at Houghall – and from the raccoons – we’d like to thank the team at Dere Street Homes and Deerness Fencing & Landscaping Ltd for the fantastic new enclosures.

“It’s great to see the raccoons and raccoon dogs taking so well to life at Houghall – it can be stressful for any animal to move home, but they’ve really settled in and their huge enclosures give them plenty of space to exercise too."

Mr Bates said: “I was thrilled to meet and see the raccoons in their new home, and it’s obvious that the enclosures have certainly lived up to expectations.

“It was a great project to be involved in and something very unusual to be able to help with.”

The college said the raccoons were overcoming their nerves and had adapted well to their new home, and enjoy interacting with students and staff at feeding time, especially when their favourite food - peanuts - are on offer.