.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Monday, August 28, 2006

Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene

Ten domestic cats have been savagely ripped to shreds this summer in Olympia, Washington by a vicious pack of marauding raccoons. Four other cats, a small dog, and a woman have also been attacked but survived. It is highly likely that feral cats and kittens have also been targeted.

All of the reported attacks have occurred within a three-block radius of the Garfield Nature Trail at Harrison Avenue West and Foote Street Southwest in the western part of the capital of the Evergreen State. Although it is not unheard of for raccoons to occasionally attack cats, this is arguably the first time that they have been known to so completely decimate the feline population of a given area.

"I've never heard a report of ten cats being killed," Sean Carrell of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife told The Olympian on August 21st. (See "Cat-Killing Raccoons on Prowl in West Olympia.") Normally, the omnivorous Procyon lotor confines its predatory urges to chickens, birds, gophers, squirrels, mice, rats, fish, frogs, snails, and crayfish.

Like badgers and some breeds of dogs, raccoons never let up once they attack. In addition to their sharp teeth, they are equipped with dexterous sharp nonretractable claws in the front and hind feet which can be rotated one-hundred-eighty degrees. This latter attribute allows them to descend trees headfirst which is a feat that even cats cannot perform. Clearly, any cat either cornered or surprised by a raccoon would have a difficult time either holding its own in a fight or fleeing.

Their only natural predators in the wild are coyotes, cougars, and bobcats; in the city they need only fear dogs. Nonetheless, because of diseases such as rabies and distemper, a lack of food, fatal encounters with motor vehicles, and the toll exacted on them by hunters and trappers, they generally only live two to three years in the wild as opposed to thirteen years in captivity.

Residents and wildlife officials alike are at a loss to explain why raccoons suddenly have begun preying upon cats since in the past they have gotten along without bloodshed. Some people have suggested that the raccoons could be suffering from either rabies or distemper but Dr. Gregg Bennett of Tumwater Veterinary Hospital believes that this is unlikely because, except for cases involving bats, the rabies virus has never been reported in Washington and distemper would make the coons too deathly sick to attack. (See Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 26, 2006, "People from Around the World Give Raccoon Advice to Olympia.")

The most farfetched explanation has come from Emily Ashworth of Bellingham who has nominated mushrooms as the culprit. Although she has recommended that mushrooms in the area be tested, so far nobody has looked into the matter.

The most plausible explanation put forward so far is that the coons have developed a taste for cat meat. Since they are territorial by nature, they no doubt also view cats as interlopers on their turf and thereby as competitors for their sustenance.

In addition to being able to open doors, latches, and cans with their front paws, raccoons are highly intelligent animals. Specifically, it is believed that, like beavers, they are able to impart newly-acquired knowledge not only to their young but also to their fellow raccoons. This appears to be the case not only in respect to their newfound taste for feline flesh but also in their uncanny ability to stay out of traps. For instance, during a recent six-week period a trapper hired by the community was only able to snare one of the killers even though he was using sardines and cat food as bait.

Like all intelligent beings, they are also highly adaptable. Zum Beispiel, although normally nocturnal they have accommodated themselves so well to urban life that they now come out during the daytime to hunt for food and, consequently, attack cats. Hunting in packs is also a new wrinkle in the behavior of these normally solitary creatures.

Also troubling is the fact that since some residents have been feeding them they have lost their fear of humans and are not the least bit reluctant to attack them, especially when residents intervene in defense of their cats. They have become so emboldened in fact that firecrackers thrown at their feet do not even faze them.

In addition to now fearing for their own safety, the killing of their beloved cats has exacted a high emotional toll on the residents of this neighborhood. Lisann Rolle not only lost her cat Lucy to a trio of raccoons but she, too, was bitten when she intervened. "It was vicious. They were focused on ripping her apart," she told The Olympian.

After chasing away the coons, Rolle rushed Lucy to the vet but she was too late. "After two days we decided she wasn't going to make it and we had her put down," she told KOMO-TV out of Seattle on August 23rd. (See video and story entitled "Olympia Raccoons Dining on Neighborhood Cats.")

Rolle, who was forced to get a jab for rabies as a precaution, now carries an iron pipe with her whenever she goes out at night in order to ward off any future attacks. As for Lucy who had lived with her for seven years, she told KOMO-TV simply, "I miss her."

Rolle's neighbor Pam Corwin fared considerably better when she spotted a coon chasing her cat, Ramona, across her backyard. Acting quickly, she was able to scare off the coon and save Ramona's life. (See photo of them at the top of the page.)

That brush with death, however, has meant the temporary grounding of both Ramona and Corwin's other cat, Sadie. Their outdoor excursions are now restricted to a large cat coop which Corwin has constructed on the side of her house out of chicken wire and wood.

The coons are not going away anytime soon, however, and they still show up on Corwin's and other residents' decks (See photo above) every evening in order to beg for food. A Raccoon Watch has been established and residents have blanketed the neighborhood with raccoon warning posters which now vie with numerous missing cat announcements for space on utility poles.

Kari Hall, her spouse, and an unidentified third party were forced to use a shovel and a baseball bat in order to scare off a raccoon that had attacked Kathy Wood's cat, Sweetie. The cat suffered damage to her internal organs and her prognosis is uncertain.

Conditions have gotten so dire that Tony and Kim Benjamins have acquired a German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix for protection against the coons. This action was precipitated by the raccoons' vicious assault on their cat, Novalee. Poor Novalee was shredded into so many pieces that it was difficult for the Benjaminses to even identify her remains.

Although the raccoons need to be immediately trapped and relocated elsewhere, KOMO-TV has reported that another trapping effort will not be attempted until either early winter or late spring. Since their food supply is expected to be scarcer then, this will supposedly make them more amenable to trapping.

Since existing trapping methods are not working, wildlife officials need to develop new tactics. Surely someone in the state of Washington has enough savoir-faire to trap a few raccoons. It could not be all that difficult since the city of Nacogdoches, Texas does not seem to have much difficulty trapping its unwanted raccoons. (See The Daily Sentinel, August 26, 2006, "City Officials: Don't Feed the Varmints.") More than likely, wildlife personnel in Washington are either too lazy to be bothered or else they, like a lot of their ilk, hate cats.

On its website, Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife argues strongly against relocating raccoons because, inter alia, new ones will only move in to fill the void created by the old ones departure, being territorial, the coons will attempt to return, and even if successfully relocated, they will displace and spread urban diseases to raccoons in their new habitat. Although these arguments have some superficial merit, they are by and large put forward merely as excuses for doing nothing.

First of all, surely some isolated location can be found for the raccoons (See photo above on the right) where they will not harm other raccoons and animals. Besides, it is far better to relocate a few problem raccoons now than to do nothing and allow them to continue to multiply. Secondly, even if newcomers should take their place in Olympia they may not be coons who have acquired a taste for cat meat. Moreover, if residents do not feed them they may not decide to stick around.

In the meantime the residents of Olympia have been left to fend for themselves and their cats as best as they can. The threat to humans arises not only from the rabies virus that some of them carry, but raccoon feces contains a parasite that can be fatal if ingested.

In addition to acquiring dogs and carrying iron pipes, residents are also arming themselves with canisters of pepper spay and guns. An editorial in the August 25th edition of The Olympian reminded them, however, that discharging a firearm within the city is a misdemeanor that is punishable by ninety days in the can and a $1,000 fine. (See "Guns Won't Solve Area's Raccoon Issue.")

It is thought that if residents refrain from feeding them, do not leave pet food outside, and secure trash cans that the raccoons will eventually disappear; after all, it was precisely these misguided acts of kindness which are blamed for creating the problem in the first place. Although this is certainly possible, it could also make them even more aggressive up to the point where they might attempt to gain entry into residences.

It goes without saying that cats cannot be allowed out-of-doors unless they are either tethered to a leash or confined within a cat coop. Cat flaps should also be secured. If for some reason it is necessary to keep them open, electronic devices can be installed in the collars of cats which will allow only them to go in and out.

In conclusion, the abandonment of the residents and cats of Olympia to their own devices by both wildlife officials and the politicians is inexcusable. Ten cats have already been savagely killed. How many more have to die before officials start to act responsibly? Not caring a hoot about cats, they are most likely waiting until either a man, woman, or child dies from a raccoon bite before taking decisive action. Sadly to say, they may not have long to wait.

Photos: Steven M. Herppich of The Olympian (Pam Corwin and Ramona), KOMO-TV (raccoons on deck), and Ginger Holser of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife (raccoon).