Raccoons attack woman walking with dog by Fort Steilacoom Park
The raccoons in Michaela Lee’s Lakewood neighborhood had never been violent, she said – until Monday, when they sent her to the emergency room.
She was on her way home from a jog in Fort Steilacoom Park when her dog got away from her and chased two raccoons up a tree. When she went over to grab the dog’s leash, several other raccoons came out of a bush and started to scratch her legs.
They chased her for about 75 feet, then several knocked the 28-year-old woman down and continued the attack.
“They were on top of me, just biting my arms and legs and sides,” she said Tuesday. “I was just trying not to let them get to my face.”
Her 6-year-old American dingo, Madison, began barking and snarling at the raccoons, driving them off and giving Lee the chance to grab one by the scruff of its neck and hurl it away.
“She’s my little hero dog,” she said.
Neighbor Michael Parks looked out his window when Lee heard screaming and saw her on the ground at the edge of his lawn. He called 911 when he saw she was hurt. Two other neighbors also went out to help.
Lee had many scratches and was treated for about 16 puncture wounds, into which hospital staff members injected antibiotics. A wound in her arm and leg needed staples, and she started a round of rabies vaccines, though she since has learned the disease is rare in raccoons in the area.
That means thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Lee said she didn’t expect to be attacked by the area’s resident raccoons. They don’t seem to get into the trash or bother the neighborhood cats, she said.
“We haven’t had any problems up to this point,” she said.
Parks said the raccoons have been in the area since he moved there 17 years ago.
“They have babies and they grow up,” he said. “There’s just kind of a continuous family of them.”
The animals sometimes are violent toward one another, he said, but to his knowledge, they’ve never attacked humans.
“They just hang around here,” Parks said. “They come around and a couple of us in the neighborhood feed them.”
Feeding raccoons, or any wild animals, can cause problems, said state Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett.
“A common denominator in most of the problems that we see is people feeding them, which is not uncommon,” he said. “Once they come to see humans as a meal ticket, they tend to become increasingly bolder. You just have to take precautions with anything that they might perceive as food.”
In the Lakewood area, raccoon problems are rare, police spokesman Chris Lawler said.
“We don’t have any other reports of problems with raccoons in the park or really in Lakewood at all,” he said.
Police notified Lakewood parks officials to keep an eye out for any other problems, and Lawler said Animal Control would consider trapping the raccoons if there were any other issues.
“If this becomes an issue, we’re going to have to look at trapping them and getting them out of the area,” he said.
The Animal Control officer who investigated thinks the dog might have provoked the attack, and that the raccoons might have been trying to protect their young, Lawler said.
Lee said she’ll continue to enjoy the park, but she’ll be prepared.
“I got some bear mace, and I’m not going to be afraid to use it if they come after me again,” she said.
Tips for dealing with raccoons
• When one approaches, take a different route or wait until it leaves.
• Don’t feed them.
• Be careful about having anything outside that resembles food.
• Try not to interfere with the animals and their young.
• Feed pets and store their food indoors.
• Keep pets on a leash when walking.
Sources: State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Lakewood Police Department