A raccoon on the run was found by Scientologists in their Sussex headquarters.

Jeff Hayden from the Badger Trust was called by the East Grinstead sect after reports of a badger in the grounds.

Instead the animal rescuer was confronted by an angry raccoon.

Staff at Saint Hill Manor, which is known to have a badger sett in its grounds, had seen an animal in a shed and heard growling.

Mr Hayden was led there by a gardener from the centre, but he initially could not see the beast.

He said: “There were no windows and it was very dark. I just had a low powered torch.

“I was looking at the ground and could not see anything. Then I looked up and three shelves up at head height was this rather annoyed looking animal.”

Unsure at first what it was Mr Hayden took a photo and sent it to Secret World South West Wildlife Hospital, Somerset, which confirmed it was a raccoon.

Mr Hayden was able to capture the animal using the same techniques deployed for badgers and took it to Folly Wildlife Rescue, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, for treatment.

The female raccoon had lost an eye and it is believed that it was attacked by a larger creature.

Dave Risley, director of the trust, said: “It seems to be recovering quite well.

“It is a really interesting animal. We are used to dealing with badges and foxes normally.

“It is a bit of an escapologist. It is a clever creature with agile hands and keeps trying to play with the padlock on the cage.

“The raccoon can be quite aggressive. We now have to find a home for it.”

Mr Risley believes the creature might have been bred in the county, as breeding raccoons does not require a dangerous animals licence, and had then escaped.

He said no one had come forward to claim the animal, whom they dubbed Rocky, indicating it is unlikely to have been a missing pet.

Despite the famous Beatles song Rocky Raccoon, he added: “We just came up with the name on the spur of the moment.”