People living in fear of vicious raccoons

by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:

This racoon lives in Florida, though other racoons have been problems in Tacoma. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
TACOMA, Wash. —

Having raccoon problems? You better get ready to either kill one yourself or pay big bucks to have someone do the dirty work for you.

That's what one Tacoma woman found out after a pack of five aggressive raccoons attacked her roommate and her therapy dog on her own front porch Sunday.

"One of them jumped at him and almost got him in the face," Katrina O'Shields said, pointing Chris Taylor. He had barely managed to get out of the way as one particularly large raccoon lunged at him from their apartment railing.

"It starts jumping on me and I'm backing away," he said, leaning way back. "Something's wrong! I was shaking like a leaf."

O'Shields says her therapy dog, Milo, may have been the only thing that got between the raccoons and the humans. Milo came charging over to protect them and wound up with three raccoons hanging off her, biting at her head until Katrina and Chris managed to beat them back with a cane and curtain rod.

O'Shields says she called The Department of Fish and Wildlife, hoping they would come out and collect the dangerous animals. Instead, she was referred to a list of licensed Nuisance Control Officers, who were authorized by the state to take care of such problems. But she would have to pay the bill.

One of the people listed was Calvin Lee. We went to talk to him at his business, Sound Wildlife Control in Puyallup With an accent born in the woods of Georgia; he explained the simple solution the state has for aggressive raccoons. "Supposed to euthanize 'em -- kill 'em."

He pulled out a squirt bottle of clam juice and a container of brightly colored Fruit Loops, and explained that those two ingredients, sprinkled with a few marshmallows, can usually entice a hungry raccoon into a cage.

The most "popular' way to dispose of the animals is by drowning them, no pleasant task. But Lee explained why it's illegal to just move the problem raccoons to a different location,

"If it's a trouble to this person, it's going to be a trouble to the next person it runs into."

But even Lee cannot solve O'Shields’ problem, because she has a very limited income, and his going rate would cost about $400 to dispose of all five angry raccoons. She can't afford it, and she can't kill them herself, nor would she especially want to.

Even if O'Shields could afford to pay Lee, there's another problem: She thinks the raccoons spend most of their time across the street in an empty, overgrown lot, and the only person who has the right to commission traps for that lot is the owner.

In the meantime, O'Shields said she worries about the other service dogs at the senior center down the street and the children she sees playing at a neighboring apartment complex.

"I don't want to see anybody get bit," she said, looking down the street. "I mean the raccoons are going after humans too."

Meanwhile, Lee loads his metal traps into the back of his pickup truck. He won't be headed to O'Shields’ home, but he'll be headed somewhere. He says he gets about one raccoon call per week

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.