NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some four-legged burglars are on the prowl in Harlem.
As CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, four-legged raccoons are running amok – breaking into homes, helping themselves to food, and leaving behind a big mess.
One raccoon made itself right at home outside Nonyaniso Zinza’s brownstone on West 121st Street.
“The claws were very horrifying,” Zinza said. “I ran the other way.”
The creepy critter was captured on camera about a year ago. Now, the pest problem on Zinza’s block is a much bigger deal.
“I’ve seen one, but I’ve heard that there are several,” said Rachel Stevens of Harlem.
“I have not had a visitor like this ever,” said Debora Clark Fairfax of Harlem. “It is very crazy and scary.”
Numerous neighbors have stories of the bandits breaking in, or just getting too close for comfort.
“At first I thought it was just a cat coming up to me, but it was this raccoon and he was right by my feet, like he was coming up to say hello,” Stevens said, “and I didn’t want him to, so I ran back inside.”
Stevens said that was not the raccoon’s only visit.
“He was back every day,” she said, adding that the raccoon was never aggressive.
Fairfax said three nights in a row, the raccoon ransacked their home.
“Strange, very strange,” she Fairfax.
At first, she blamed her husband, Richard Fairfax, for the mess.
“My wife asked me, you know, was I doing something, you know, cleaning something? You know, did I leave it messy?” he said. “And I didn’t know anything about it. “
For three straight nights, the raccoon came back. The mystery went unsolved, Richard Fairfax said, until, “I investigated further and noticed the screen had been pulled open.”
In that moment, Richard Fairfax realized the notorious raccoon he had heard so much about was to blame.
The critter came in through the window that was open at the time. From the window, the raccoon headed to the pantry, opened the door, grabbed the cat food, unscrewed it, and helped himself.
And the raccoon did not stop there. He also ate peanuts and washed his paws in the cat’s water dish.
“I want the city to come in and do an assessment, and get rid of them,” Debora Clark Fairfax said.
CBS2 reached out to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on the Fairfaxes’ behalf. The response was: “Non-rabid raccoons… do not pose significant health risks. Property owners are responsible for removing a nuisance raccoon.”
Brendan Goldblatt, president of Concourse Pest Control, explained what must be done.
“You’d have to get them trapped and removed from the property,” he said.
Goldblatt said that is the only way to keep the raccoons from coming back. He suspects someone fed them.
“Now they’re used to humans feeding them and they love that,” he said.
Summer is also the season for activity, Goldblatt said.
“The pups or the kits were born in early spring, and now they’re getting full grown,” he said.
And they are out exploring, and their human neighbors do not like it at all.
Neighbors also told stories of the raccoons eating fish and turtles from a backyard pond, and said a raccoon actually removed the wrapper from a lollipop, ate it, and left the stick behind.