An unlikely animal was spotted by a late-night driver who almost mistook it for a cat - a raccoon.

The non-indigenous creature was spotted on the hedgerow just before the Ongar roundabout on the A414 by Graham Paine, from Roydon on Monday, June 17.

Mr Paine, who was travelling home from Chelmsford after attending his weekly Mid-Essex Budgerigar Society meeting, said he was been “kicking himself since” for not taking a photo.

He said: “I was so shocked at what I had seen. I was kind of watching the moment unfold in front of me.”

“I thought I had better slow down just in case there was a casualty, so I was able to slow right down to an eventual stop to which it stopped in the middle of the road and I spotted its tail.

“I suddenly thought of ring-tailed lemurs, but once it turned to face me it was totally unmistakeable that it was raccoon.”

Mr Paine contacted Essex Wildlife Trust following his encounter to alert them to the unusual finding, only to be told raccoons are not the county’s watch list.

This means the animal will likely be left from natural causes or sadly, potentially become a roadkill.

Emily McParland, communications officer from Essex Wildlife Trust, said: “We always ask people to contact the RSPCA if they spot an animal not native to the UK.

“It is likely that this raccoon has escaped from someone who has bought it over as a pet or from an anima enclosure.”

“Should the owners be found they could be prosecuted for allowing the animal to escape.

“We have had no other reports of raccoon sighting to us.”

Raccoons, which are native to North America, are known to be very aggressive and successful scavenger hunters which eat birds and amphibians.