Raccoon attacks leave East Vancouver on edge

For residents of Venables Street, it was a season of terror.

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The attack, which wouldn’t end until Joyce Gee was bloodied and knocked to the ground, started on a sunny, hot evening in East Vancouver, with a few derivative beetles from her little chihuahua, Cali.

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A raccoon darted out of the bushes. The animal had razor-sharp teeth, but Gee wasn’t thinking about that just yet. At first it was confusion, panic. The raccoon charged, hissing, growling, ferociously. It grabbed Cali and bit. The puppy screamed. Gee’s other dogs, Mac and Rika, tugged at their leashes. Gee tried to restrain them.

Instinctively, Gee kicked the raccoon. Now it was a fight. The raccoon approached Gee and clutched her ankle. Teeth torn through skin, muscles. Leg, elbow, hand, finger.

Blood spattered on the sidewalk.

She lost her grip on the dogs and tipped over backwards. Her body slammed into the concrete.

“It was like a nightmare,” Gee said. “It just kept coming, it didn’t stop.”

Cali (right) and Rika with Joyce Gee in Vancouver on June 27, 2022.
Cali (right) and Rika with Joyce Gee in Vancouver on June 27, 2022. Photo by RICHARD LAMPNG

Rick fired. A friendly stranger plucked the Miniature Poodle from traffic on Victoria Drive.

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Gee stumbled home, bleeding profusely. “It looked like my finger had been bitten by it.”

For residents of Venables Street, it was a season of terror. Just months ago, two raccoons tried to drag a Mexican hairless one. The dog’s tail was amputated.

Gee got four stitches in her hand and Cali is recovering from puncture wounds.

“Right now, the situation with the raccoons has gotten out of hand,” said Gee’s neighbor, Zsuzsi Gartner.

Gartner’s own dog is not allowed outside. “It’s scary.”

Calling the city was not productive. “They don’t have a raccoon policy,” Gartner says.

The City of Vancouver has confirmed it has no specific policy regarding raccoons, but anyone who feeds animals, including coyotes, birds, rodents, squirrels and raccoons, could be fined $500. (There is an exception for those feeding hummingbirds on private property or other birds with a bird feeder inaccessible to other wildlife.)

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Leak marks on Joyce Gee's legs continue to heal after an unprovoked raccoon attack left her and her dog with wounds.
Leak marks on Joyce Gee’s legs continue to heal after an unprovoked raccoon attack left her and her dog with wounds. Photo by RICHARD LAMPNG

BC’s Department of Environmental Protection officials confirmed to Postmedia that they had a report of the Victoria Drive incident but failed to respond “due to higher priority public safety calls”.

Raccoons are a Schedule-B “pest” species, under the BC Wildlife Act. They may be legally hunted in areas where firearms are allowed, but in other areas, including Metro Vancouver, they cannot be killed or captured without a permit.

Andrea Wallace, wildlife welfare manager for the BCSPCA, said raccoons, like all wild animals, can be dangerous. She recommends “modifying human behavior so that we can coexist.”

Raccoons generally do not approach humans, but are encouraged as they become accustomed. “When people think they’re cute and actively feed them, they’re encouraging raccoons to come around. We don’t want that, we want them to be scared of us,” Wallace said.

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Even bird feeders can attract raccoons. Wallace recommends making gardens, sheds, and carports uncomfortable for raccoons: clean up the mess, shine bright lights, keep a radio station on.

Hannah Griebling, a UBC researcher, said raccoons are highly intelligent. “Their brains have a high concentration of glial cells in a ratio similar to that of primates, so they are tenacious and willing to deal with new problems.”

“It’s almost an arms race between us and the raccoons. We create more intelligent creatures while creating more complex systems to block them,” Griebling said.

Randy Celinski of AAA Wildlife Control inspects potential entry points for pests.
Randy Celinski of AAA Wildlife Control inspects potential entry points for pests. Photo by Francis GeorgianPNG

Randy Celinski, owner of AAA Wildlife Control, said Vancouver’s raccoons “benefit from free food and housing.” His approach is to “turn them out” from structures. Catching and moving is no longer accepted due to the danger of spreading disease, Celinski said. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”

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Celinski said February through August is “kitting season,” and mother raccoons can be aggressive if they think their babies are in danger. “Give them their distance when you walk dogs, watch out when they are on your property, and don’t leave any food.”

The good news is that Celinski has never heard of anyone being killed by a raccoon. Unfortunately, although Celinski can drive raccoons from the attic, he unfortunately has no control over a raccoon hiding in a bush.

The thought that there might be more raccoons lurking in bushes, ready to attack at any moment has alarmed the neighbors of Venables Street.

“I appreciate how moms protect their kits, but when they’re brutally attacking people, more needs to be done,” Gartner said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the statutes of the City of Vancouver regarding wildlife feeding.

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