Navigating an urban environment and surviving is often no easy feat for wild animals like raccoons, opossums, squirrels and others. Cars, cruel humans, toxins, development, and intolerance all take their toll on the wild animals who refuse to allow civilization to get the better of them. Each interaction we have with wildlife leaves an opportunity to practice consideration, compassion and respect for our wild neighbors.
Unfortunately, on May 15th, the opportunity to forge a more compassionate attitude towards the creatures who share the five boroughs with us, was lost with the life of a sleepy raccoon. The New York Post reported in Coonskin Capped: E. Side Critter Killed By Cops that police officers attempting to capture a raccoon who was resting in a tree on the Upper East Side terrorized, injured, and eventually sent the raccoon to her death. After police severely injured the raccoon with darts (and joked about harpooning her in front of the public), the dazed animal was taken to Animal Care & Control where she was killed.
The need to capture a raccoon who was simply resting in a tree and showing no signs of abberant behavior is beyond questionable, it’s silly. It’s common for mother raccoons to be seen during the day – especially when they have young in the nest. The Empty Cages Collective was so distressed by the treatment of this raccoon that we fired off a letter to the editor to the New York Post trying to set the record straight. The letter read:
The recent handling and killing of the raccoon on the Upper East Side ( Coonskin Capped: E. Side Critter Killed By Cops – 5/16/2008 ) is beyond offensive. Raccoons are intelligent, sensitive creatures who deserve our admiration for successfully surviving in this concrete jungle, not abuse and violence.
Justifying unnecessary cruelty due to antiquated fears about rabies would be laughable if it wasn’t so common. Healthy mother raccoons sometimes nap in trees or forage during the day when they have nursing and dependent young during this time of year. The officers didn’t just “harpoon” a raccoon, but likely orphaned a litter of babies who will now die of starvation, dehydration or exposure for no good reason.
Raccoons and humans can coexist – even in New York City. Tolerance, understanding and thoughtfulness can help solve human/wildlife conflicts without bloodshed. The NYPD and Animal Care & Control would do well to start acting on that fact.
For the sake of the other raccoons who call NYC, we hope attitudes and policies evolve so wild animals don’t continue to suffer and die unnecessarily due to fear and ignorance.