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The Year of the Raccoon

Not Everyone Loves The Bandit-Faced Hooligans

By Cara DeGette, Editor, GPHN

Donna Banks gestures to the roof of her house near 26th Avenue and Grape Street, where she spotted a huge raccoon. Photo by Cara DeGette

Donna Banks has lived in Park Hill for 40 years and she said she’s never seen anything like it.

“It was in the attic and I heard a noise, and I thought, that can’t be a mouse, it must be a rat,” Banks said. “But then my husband went outside and looked up at the chimney and I went out there to see what he was looking at, and it just about scared me to death. It was so big – as big as a big dog, you know.

“It was just laying across the roof like a big lion, like a big statue.”

It wasn’t a mouse, or a rat, or a dog, or a lion. It was a raccoon, one of many that has been spotted all summer long, all over the neighborhood. The raccoon sightings have prompted a multitude of reports, including on social media – along with advice on how to avoid getting chickens grabbed and eaten from backyard coops, dogs mauled, and even unwelcome late night kitchen raids via cat doors.

Report: Two very brazen raccoons in the alley of 23rd and Glencoe, going through a trash can.

Report: Three of them knocking over cans at 29th and Steele.

Report: A family slinking out of the drainpipe at Dexter and 26th.

Report: At 17th and Cherry, taking a bath in a backyard fountain.

Report: Mama and four babies crossing the street at 26th and Dahlia.

Report: Three of them standing just outside the patio door, looking in.

Report: Two little monsters terrorizing in the alley at 33rd and Cherry.

Other spottings have been reported this summer at 29th and Hudson, 22nd and Newport, 28th and Cherry, 29th and Eudora, 23rd and Colorado Boulevard, and Batavia and Cherry.

“I’ve definitely gotten more calls in Park Hill this year than in years past,” said Dan Steckman, the owner of Affordable Animal Removal, who regularly works in Park Hill. “This seems to be the year of the raccoon.”

Steckman estimates he’s removed 400 raccoons from inside peoples’ chimneys and attics this year. They also build dens in crawl spaces and under decks and sheds. Raccoon families always have at least two dens, Steckman said, which are usually geographically fairly close together.

In the spring, many mama raccoons will take their babies – typically they have broods of 3-4 or more – up into peoples’ chimneys and attics, providing the ambiance of a hollow tree.

The standard procedure is to trap them and release them outside – and then shut off access so they don’t return. By law, raccoons must be released on site, unless they are obviously sick, in which case they can be euthanized, Steckman said. He advised people not to try to inadvertently cut off mama raccoons from returning to their den. That increases risk the litter of babies are left behind to starve to death, which creates other problems, including a terrible smell.

To discourage raccoons from sticking around, social media quarterbacks have advised everything from hooking up a radio in the back yard and keeping it on all the time, to putting an old sock soaked with coyote urine outside. “Don’t spill it in your house,” the commenter advised.

Rather than hiring an animal removal specialist, Donna Banks and her husband opted to use their own ingenuity to outmatch the brazen raccoon that had taken up residence at their residence. They repelled the animal with the help of mothballs and ammonia-soaked rags, and then put a block over the chimney.

So far, so good, Banks said. But since the encounter, she’s been hearing about an uptick in the skunk and fox population in Park Hill. And she’s still nervous about letting her dogs out at night, knowing the raccoon is still out there somewhere.

“They’re pretty smart, too,” Banks said. “My daughter saw a picture of one knocking on someone’s door with a rock. And she said, ‘Look at them claws on that baby.’”

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