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It was quite a seen today at Carroll Park. After many rainy days, the sun peeked out for a few hours on one of the first warm days of springs, attracting more than kids to the park. As children were being dismissed from nearby schools, a raccoon with spring fever was foraging for an after-school snack. And since raccoons are my beat, I happened to be wandering through shortly before 4pm as rangers from the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation were assessing the situation.
Carroll Park at 4pm is always a bustling scene of babies, basket ball games, and moms with scooters and strollers buying Girl Scout Samoas. Enter the raccoon, who had been foraging in garbage cans in the vicinity of the toddler section, until it attracted a crowd bubbling with celebrity level excitement. Nannies were filming the critter as kids screamed with delight. I expect a teen or two may have posted selfies with the beast on Instagram. The critter wisely retreated high into a tree, too high for Animal Care and Control to remove. Even if it had stayed grounded, the rangers were reluctant to remove the raccoon because it wasn’t presenting an immediate danger. If they caught the raccoon it would be brought to an Animal Care Center where it would likely be put down.
Parents and caregivers vacated the toddler section until Urban Ranger Angela Phillips from Animal Care and Control reassured families that the raccoon was acting normal and the area was safe. Ranger Phillips explained that raccoons are omnivores and opportunists. They are obviously hungry when winter ends, and are out looking for food now that it’s spring. While pizza and Pirate’s Booty are not their traditional food sources, they will take advantage of the many options garbage cans offer. I asked Ranger Phillips if it was concerning for a raccoon to be active in the daytime. She explained that urban raccoons behave differently from rural raccoons. It is normal for urban raccoons to wander during the day and not necessarily a sign of danger.
Ranger Angela Phillips recommended parents at Carroll Park call NYC Department of Parks and Recreation again if the raccoon’s behavior becomes a problem.