Raccoons Infesting Lakefront, Officials Say

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    In what has been classified an "infestation," an abundance of raccoons have appeared along Chicago's lakefront. And humans are to blame. (Published Wednesday, May 4, 2011)

    They may be cute, but they can be deadly. 

    In what has been classified an "infestation," an abundance of raccoons have appeared along Chicago's lakefront.

    "It is not unusual to receive a report of a raccoon in a park on occasion, but we don’t recall a time when they have been in such abundance," Chicago Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

    Complaints from boaters in particular started coming in last summer and the park district decided to tackle it this spring. Westrec Marinas, which manages the harbors, subcontracted with suburban Ampest Exterminating & Wildlife Control to trap and euthanize the animals. Money for the project --  less than $25,000 -- was taken from the harbor budget, which Maxey-Faulkner said is funded by boat slip and concession receipts.

    Raccoons carry roundworm, which can be deadly to humans. The trapped raccoons have been euthanized by putting them in a CO2 chamber.

    The small mammals are likely attracted to humans and the steady source of food they provide.

    "This is all the fault of the general public that comes out and tries to feed what they think is a Disney-like creature, which it’s not," Charlotte Newfeld, steward of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  "We’ve had feeders out there, whom we’ve had police arrest, and they still continue to give them food."