Last week my pleasant stroll down Franklin Street was interrupted by a horrible sight—a dead raccoon lay just in front of me on the sidewalk. The raccoon, who measured about a foot in length, was certainly not alone in Greenpoint. Area residents have reported a slew of the critters in every part of Greenpoint.
Raccoons are not just in Greenpoint. They are all over New York, but especially prevalent in Brooklyn (police chased a raccoon for hours last week in Ditmas Park). The NY Times on January 1st did a story on the creatures, reporting that there is a spike in residents paying for removal services. City law requires that captured raccoons be euthanized because they are potential rabies carriers, but they are so cute that few people have the heart to follow the law. Once released the animals often make it back to the area of their capture.
Raccoons are nocturnal animals who have adapted themselves very well to urban living. They feed on insects, small rodents, fruits and vegetables, but they love garbage and can live on trash. Raccoons have amazing dexterity and use their front paws to pry things open, turn knobs and handle objects. They often live in hollow trees, chimneys, garages, sheds, attics, porches and under decks. Some residents have even reported raccoons on the ceilings of houses.
Although Raccoons are not major carriers of rabies, nevertheless like all mammals they can carry the disease. Raccoons can bite and infect pets, so follow the law and vaccinate your animal. Although rare, raccoon bites occur and the victim will be required to get a series of painful shots.
Like other Brooklynites, raccoons are very shrewd and adaptable. They are good at finding places to live here and food sources, so do not expect the raccoons to disappear any time soon. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation has some useful tips on how to deal with raccoons if they’re a nuisance on your property.