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http://www.theolympian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060821/NEWS/608210327
Cat-killing raccoons on prowl in west Olympia

OLYMPIA - Raccoons are cute, until they kill one of your cats.

That is what a west Olympia neighborhood is learning this summer.

Raccoons have killed about 10 cats in a three-block area near the Garfield Nature Trail at Harrison Avenue West and Foote Street Southwest.

Problem wildlife coordinator Sean Carrell of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife called the situation "bizarre, weird."

"I've never heard a report of 10 cats being killed. It's something we're going to have to monitor," he said. He added that they may have to bring in trappers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The problem got so bad that residents Kari Hall and Tamara Keeton even started a Raccoon Watch after having an emotional neighborhood meeting attended by about 40 people.

"It was a place for people to mourn and cry," Hall said.

At the meeting, they encouraged people to stop feeding the raccoons. They also decided to keep their pets and pet food inside. And they decided to carry pepper spray to drive off raccoons that attack again.

Keeton and Pam Corwin have decided to have "cat coops" built so their pets can go outside and have some room to roam, with protection.

It's not just cats being attacked. Five raccoons actually ganged up on and carried off a little dog, who survived.

One thing that makes these raccoons scary is they have no fear. One neighbor threw firecrackers at them to try to scare them off, and it didn't even bug them, Hall said.

"It's a new breed," Keeton said. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid."

"There's one really big bad dude," she added.

"He was the biggest raccoon I've ever seen. He was a monster," added Tony Benjamins, whose family has had two cats killed.

The raccoons are so bold they bit Lisann Rolle when she tried to fling three of them off of her cat, Lucy.

"I was watching her like a hawk, but she snuck out," Rolle said of Lucy. "Then I heard this hideous sound - a coyote-type high pitch ...

"It was vicious. They were focused on ripping her apart."

Lucy had been a member of the family for seven years. Rolle received rabies shots as a precaution.

Rolle still gets upset talking about it.

"I'm afraid of them," she said of the raccoons. "I carry an iron pipe with me" when I go out at night, she added.

'They were so cute'

Kim and Tony Benjamins are still mourning the killing of their favorite cat, Novalee. She was ripped to pieces, and it was hard to identify her.

"I see Kim sit by Novalee's grave in their front yard every day ... talking or just being with her kitty," Keeton said.

Tony Benjamins said that in previous years, raccoons would come within 5 feet of cats with no problems.

"We used to love the raccoons. They'd have their babies this time of year, and they were so cute. Even though we lived in the city, it was neat to have wildlife around."

But this year, things changed.

"They went nuts," he said of raccoons. "We got a dog" - a German shepherd-Rottweiler mix - to scare them away.

Hall, her husband and a neighbor actually helped save one cat's life.

"We were right there trying to get him off the cat," she said. "The cat was screaming, and the raccoon was ferocious. My husband and a neighbor grabbed a shovel and a bat, and they were waving them until it took off. It was scary."

She said she doesn't know whether neighbor Kathy Wood's cat, Sweetie, will recover.

One thing that also saved Sweetie's life is she's overweight.

"It couldn't pull Sweetie under the deck. But it pulled so hard it hurt her internal organs," Hall said.

The neighbors hired trapper Tom Brown, a nuisance wildlife control operator from Rochester.

Brown said of the raccoons, "They are in command up there."

He said he's seen packs this big, but none so into killing. There was one in Rochester that killed a peacock last winter and another in Grand Mound that killed three chickens. But nothing like this.

Brown said there is an overabundance of food in the area with many fruit trees.

"And the good folks feed them. They're cute as a bug's ear," he said, adding, "I wouldn't mind being a raccoon up there."

Normally, Brown said, he can fix a problem in a few weeks, but he has set traps there for six weeks and caught only one.

"It was with sardines and cat food," he said. "For bait, I use what they've been feeding them."

Brown said he hasn't trapped more because raccoons are intelligent. They teach their young, the same as beavers do. He said one big male boar is the main killer, and he's tasted blood, and he wants more. He's usually helped by one or two others.

"The boar's likely been in a live trap before," Brown said.

Carrell added: "It's highly unlikely you will ever trap him again, and he'll teach the others to stay away."

Brown said he's going to back off for a while until the food supply dries up.

"Then they'll be a little less persnickity," Brown said.

He said his goal is to make them feel uncomfortable. Until that happens, they aren't likely to leave.

"We have our favorite restaurants; they have their favorite routes," he said.

'It's like a freeway'

Keeton said the raccoons travel their route so often they've worn a path.

"It's like a freeway in the back yard," she said. "It's like clockwork. They come between 9 and 9:30 every night."

Corwin said the raccoons are brave.

"They come on my deck and beg for food at my window," Corwin said.

Keeton said she's lived in the area for six years and never seen anything like this. She said Fish and Wildlife, the city of Olympia and animal control - nobody has any answers on why this is happening.

But Carrell said: "I talk to people until I'm blue in the face - do not feed cats and dogs outside."

Donny Martorello, also of Fish and Wildlife, said if people don't feed raccoons, or any wildlife, there won't be a problem.

"Raccoons adapt really well living in suburban environments," Martorello said.

Keeton said she knows people have invaded the raccoons' territory, but Hall added they have coexisted peacefully for a long time.

"You've got to watch which ones are bad," Hall said. "It's not all of them. We just have to arm ourselves with pepper spray."

Keeton added: "It may sound silly, but a lot of the people here truly feel scared and terrorized."

Tips on keeping raccoons away

Don't feed them.

Don't leave any food out that they can get to.

Clean your grill. The odor can attract them.

Don't put your trash can out where they can get to it.

Keep your lights on. Raccoons like to avoid being seen.

Keep gates closed to make it harder for them to get close to the house.

Source: Donny Martorello, state Department of Fish and Wildlife

 

Steven Powell is city editor for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5423 or spowell@theolympian.com.

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clock Aug 22, 2006 11:08 am US/Central

Killer Raccoons Terrorize Olympia, Washington

(AP) OLYMPIA, Washington A fierce group of raccoons has killed 10 cats, attacked a small dog and bitten at least one pet owner who had to get rabies shots, residents of Olympia say.

Some have taken to carrying pepper spray to ward off the masked marauders and the woman who was bitten now carries an iron pipe when she goes outside at night.

"It's a new breed," said Tamara Keeton, who with Kari Hall started a raccoon watch after an emotional neighborhood meeting drew 40 people. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid."

Tony Benjamins, whose family lost two cats, said he got a big dog -- a German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix -- to keep the raccoons away.

One goal of the patrol is to get residents to stop feeding raccoons and to keep pets and pet food indoors.

Lisann Rolle said she began carrying an iron pipe when she goes outside at night after being bitten by raccoons when she tried to pull three of them off her cat Lucy. She obtained rabies shots afterward as a precaution.

"I was watching her like a hawk, but she snuck out," Rolle said. "Then I heard this hideous sound -- a coyote-type high pitch ... It was vicious. They were focused on ripping her apart."

The attacks have been especially shocking because raccoons came within five feet of cats without any problem in previous years, Benjamins said.

"We used to love the raccoons. They'd have their babies this time of year, and they were so cute. Even though we lived in the city, it was neat to have wildlife around," he said, "but this year, things changed. They went nuts."

In one case five raccoons tried to carry off a small dog, which managed to survive.

The attacks, all within a three-block area near the Garfield Nature Trail in Olympia, are highly unusual, said Sean O. Carrell, a problem wildlife coordinator with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, adding that trappers may be summoned from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove problem animals.

"I've never heard a report of 10 cats being killed. It's something were going to have to monitor," Carrell said.

Meanwhile, residents have hired Tom Brown, a nuisance wildlife control operator from Rochester, Washington, to set traps, but in six weeks he has caught only one raccoon. He and Carrell said raccoons teach their young -- and each other -- to avoid traps.

Brown said he had seen packs of raccoons this big but none so into killing.

"They are in command up there," he said.

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