New York 09/02/10 brooklyneagle.com: by Raanan Geberer – Brooklyn — A new bill by a Queens City Councilwoman to get tough on raccoons has found a sympathetic echo in Brooklyn, especially from a Greenwood Heights community activist who has been fighting the increasingly invasive and bold critters for several years.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) recently introduced a bill that would require the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to promptly and humanely relocate raccoons in coordination with the Parks Department when requested by a resident.
Lydon Sleeper, a spokesman for Ms. Crowley, said her office was certainly aware of the problems in Brooklyn. However, he said, her district has its own problems with being overrun by the pests, especially in Glendale and Middle Village. An article from the Queens Courier, for example, describes how Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan’s Fourth of July was ruined after she saw an entire pack of raccoons creeping up the street.
At the present time, “the Health Department’s involvement with raccoons pertains to the surveillance and prevention of rabies,” according to a statement e-mailed by the department. While the department contracts with Animal Care and Control “to capture any raccoon that is sick, injured or that has bitten or scratched a person so rabies testing can begin.”
However, the statement adds that raccoons are considered wildlife, and residents wishing to remove “nuisance raccoons” have to hire a licensed trapper on their own.
Aaron Brashear, co-founder of the Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights and a member of Community Board 7, thinks that isn’t good enough.
Besides “the copious amount of feces they leave,” he said, “most city-dwelling raccoons’ feces contain roundworms (Baylisacaris procyonis). Besides that and the filth, fleas and ticks, when they’ve done random testing, a high percentage of them contain the rabies virus.”
When Brashear and his wife moved into their house, on 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, in 2004, he said, “We’d get a family of maybe two or three in the backyard occasionally who would dig in the backyard, maybe steal a tomato.”
Now, however, he said, “This summer, there’s a minimum of four or five at a time. Once there was eight at once behind our shed. We spend about a thousand dollars to trap four raccoons and to repair the damage to our yard. I can say that was cheap because the trapper was a really nice guy – it should have been two or three [thousand].”
Asked why there are so many raccoons, Brashear mentioned an unusual culprit – development. When he moved in, many of the houses had driveways that were open to the street, so the animals moved in and out. With the building of new low-rise, attached condos in the area, he added, “every house is connected – they’re [the raccoons] trapped in the back yard.”
That Brooklyn Attitude
Moreover, Brooklyn’s raccoons have that “Brooklyn attitude” — they’re bolder than the rural variety. “Where I come from, in Ohio, you’d see a raccoon, they’d notice you and they’d run away. Here, when I moved in, the neighbors warned that they’re not afraid.”
Since the Brooklyn areas where raccoons are found are close to Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park, a casual observer might think that the animals might come from there and only “visit” human habitats for food.
Not so, says Brashear. “I live across the street from the cemetery,” he says, “and I’ve never seen one come from there to forage in the backyards.” Rather, he says, a raccoon might go from a backyard into the cemetery — and then come back.
Raccoons have also been noted in Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Sunset Park. Recently, headlines were made when a raccoon invaded a Park Slope brownstone, only to die of suffocation after getting into a kitchen drawer and not knowing how to get out.
“The deceased critter’s friends must not have gotten the message,” said the Huffington Post, “as two additional raccoons recently tried to break into the very same brownstone.”