Dear PoP

Lunch Time! Raccoons Eating Cat Food, originally uploaded by One Date Wonder.

Dear PoP,

I just moved to Petworth this past weekend. I got a warm welcome from a family of raccoons last night. I heard animals fighting in the alley and it sounded louder and bigger than cats. Sure enough when I looked out my window, there were two HUGE raccoons standing on my fence. I’m concerned because they were walking around my car and my patio. I also have a small dog and I don’t want them to attack him when I take him out at night. Has anyone else seen raccoons in the neighborhood? Are they dangerous and do they run away when humans walk outside?

Thank you!


Dear Concerned,

I am unfortunately all too familiar with Procyon Lotor also known in certain circles as the Tahitian villain or the Eastern rascal. Of course I’m talking about the common raccoon. I called Dr. Paul Bronstein of the Rockville Centre Botanical Gardens for more information. As I suspected Dr. Bronstein confirmed that raccoons are usually harmless although can be quite dangerous if they are rabid. Ed. note: Dr. Bronstein is a figment of my imagination and since he is presumably a botanist I’m not sure how helpful his advice would be anyway, but I’m fairly certain that raccoons are indeed quite dangerous when rabid. However, in my personal experience raccoons simply saunter away when I’ve encountered them. I believe you are mostly likely to encounter raccoons after dark so I wouldn’t worry too much about your dog in the day. Again, even at night I doubt they would attack your dog unless rabid. Now having said that if you suspect they may be dangerous I would urge you to call animal control. Perhaps calling 311 would help. Also common in the city are the raccoons slower and stupider, but no less repulsive, cousin the possum. I too believe they are of no danger unless rabid and usually flee, albeit slowly, at the sound of humans. As I dabble more in botany perhaps some of the readers will have better suggestions.

Good luck and secure your garbage cans!


21 Comment

  • two nights ago, i’m in my bed on the second floor, reading dear ‘ol PoP’s blog.
    suddenly, my cat comes racing through the back door and under my bed. not long after that (maybe 5 seconds), a raccoon the size of a small schnauzer comes slowly sauntering into my bedroom where it stops two feet away from me, looks at me, and then slowly turns around and saunters back outside to the deck. it was really freaky, but the dude was sooooo mellow!

    we had been sleeping with the back door open for a few weeks, and now we know why the cat’s food bowl is empty every morning when we wake up, despite filling it up every night! the little critter had been sneaking in and eating it!

    oh, i’m in NE DC, over by NoMa and the old children’s museum.

    however, when i lived in georgetown, i had a racoon come in my house and follow me up to the second floor of my home, before yawning and walking back outside.

    seems they’re everywhere in DC!

  • Most of my raccoon stories are from Ann Arbor. In a college house of mine there was a big, fat raccoon that would sit in our trash can and eat left-over food. One day I walked out of the back door and there he was, two feet from my face, sitting in the trash can lazily munching on a sandwich like a human being, with both his hands. One of my roommates would always hassle him with a broom. It was hysterical to see how bored he was by her, slowly walking away and giving her the evil eye: “I’ll move because I want to. Not because you want me to.”

    In Ann Arbor also: my sister saw a raccoon eat a squirrel. It must’ve been rabid. The poor squirrel was screaming. Literally, screaming. She tried to shoo the raccoon away with a broom and he didn’t even notice it. She called the cops because she was so flustered and upset by the scene.

  • Uh, and keep Fluffy inside.

  • Speaking of critters, we saw a possum in our neighbor’s yard the other night. Anyone know about these creatures?

  • If you can catch one, you could make a wonderful stew out of it.

  • The Virginia Opossum is a pretty interesting creature they are almost incapable of carrying rabies due to their low blood temperature, are resistant or immune to the venom of vipers due to a bolstered immune system, they have semi-prehensile tails, and their bifurcated genitalia have prevented them from cross breeding with other marsupials and mammals throughout the course of history making them a evolutionary island in North America.


  • Can you even call 311 anymore? I at least know that all police calls (emergency or otherwise) are now supposed to go through 911. Which is stupid. But that aside, is 311 still an option?

  • whoa.. don’t ever keep food outside. I have heard stories in California where raccoons and other wildlife grew accustomed to eating food outside a house. When the neighbor stopped leaving the good, they started breaking in windows to find more food.

  • P.S. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone so I wouldn’t trust it. My friend edited Wikipedia and said that he was the king of aruba.

  • Raccoons sneaking into your kitchen? Convenient. see

  • Small schnauzer my ass. I have a small schnauzer, and the raccoons I’ve seen around my house in NOPE dwarf my dog. DC is definitely in the middle of the “steroid era” for raccoons. Things are better now, but a year ago I was putting heavy bricks on top of my supercan to keep them out of the garbage.

  • my roommate saw a possum in our front yard the other day… she said it was the ugliest thing ever… they can’t be that ugly, my uncle had a pet possum when he was young. city paper had an article about rabid raccoons not too long ago. they were talking about how hard it was to stop wild animals (especially raccoons) from getting rabies in the area

  • Opossums! I don’t know much about opossums other than they carry babies on their backs, can hang out upside down by the tail, and have sharp teeth. One visited us a month or two ago, so they are around. It was pretty stubborn about leaving. They don’t seem to be very bright, the one we had stuck its head between a bag and the wall to “hide”, except the entire back end was still exposed.

    Raccoons are pretty mischievous. At my parents house they took the screens off and crawled through the window. After they’d taken their fill of whatever was in the pantry plus a cake left on the counter, my parents came home to find them in the living room trying to take the screens off those windows in an attempt to make their exit. Those windows were shut though and they couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t get the screens out. In another incident, they ripped up the linoleum in the bathroom and shoved it down the toilet… I’m not entirely clear on how exactly this happened.

  • oye, that Ann Arbor story of the racoon and the squirrel is awful.
    Though considering the PoP’s dealings with both, I don’t know if maybe inside he was happy to hear of a squirrel meeting such a gruesome end.

  • PooPoo— I would just about die if a raccoon sauntered into my bedroom unannounced. Those things are cute in photos, but when you’re not expecting one, and all of a sudden a little masked bandit is staring you in the face, they can be quite freaky.

    On a side note, if anyone would like to borrow my old fat coonhound for a backyard hunting trip, just let me know. I’m sure she would appreciate the work 🙂

  • Nutmeg,
    Apparently only young and adolecent opossums can hang from their tails… the tails are semi prehensile which allows them to use it as a 5th limb for climbing or grasping materials for nesting but arent strong enough to support the weight of a full grown opossum.

    … and raccoons are just plain fly.

  • A few years ago in Adams Morgan some kids found a raccoon that was moving slowly and acting weird. They tied it to a rope and were abusing it when an adult found them. Turned out the raccoon was rabid and all those dumb-ass kids had to get the full rabies shot series. I was sad for the raccoon but glad to hear they got some payback for being cruel to a helpless animal.

  • if a raccoon is acting ‘drugged up’, drowsey, drunk looking… stay away!!! it is rabid!

  • I didn’t have time to mention this morning that we had raccoons coming and going in the space between the ceiling and the roof when I lived in Baton Rouge. They were the loudest things and thanks to being in a private residence, animal control wouldn’t do a thing about them. Once, one of them peed up there and it dripped down my roommate’s bedroom wall. She was out of town and I never told her.

  • Perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a gun owner ship exception for the purpose of hunting racoons! Serioulsy, don’t leave any kind of food outside. If the racoons aren’t eating it, the rats probably are.

  • In Memphis, we had a raccoon mother move into our chimney over the winter to raise her ‘coon cubs. We could always tell when the mom went out to get food for her young by the sound of the mother ‘coon fighting with our neighbor’s irascible cat. Both survived the winter-long territorial feud a bit scratched up but no serious injuries. In the spring, mama and the adolescents moved out of our chimney. We had the chimney capped before the next breeding season.

Comments are closed.