A number of years ago, when my wife was still in college, a prowler tried to break into her tiny bungalow in Berkeley, California. She heard him, first on the roof then at the door, furiously trying to get in. Normally she would rely on the dogs that lived with her (a great Dane and golden retriever) but she could hear them across the yard whimpering in fear.
So she called the Berkeley cops, who quickly came onto the scene with guns drawn.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” one said through the door.
“Yes, thank God you’re here. The intruder was just here a minute ago.”
The brave cop turned the corner and came face-to-face with her assailant. And it was worse than he could have ever imagined.
“Ma’am,” he said gravely, “I think your burglar is a raccoon.”
My wife peeked outside and saw what she described as the largest raccoon that has ever lived. It was so engorged on discarded organic cupcakes and half-eaten whole grain pop-tarts that it was nearly spherical. She marveled at its ability to even touch the ground with its stubby little feet.
Now, there are several ways a law enforcement officer can respond to a 10-91R such as this. One would be immediate lethal force. The second would be to call in for SWAT backup. This particular officer opted for the third option, to laugh hysterically and wipe away the tears as he walked back to his car.
But he might have opted for one of the others if he knew then what I know now.
First described by navigator, biologist, and all-around-horrible-person, Christopher Columbus, the north American raccoon’s scientific name inexplicably translates as “before-dog washer.” Their common name, less inexplicably, is a butchered version of a Powhatan word that means “animal that scratches with its hands.”
And bites with its mouth. Ever since that first meeting with Columbus, raccoons have been trying to undermine our values and take away our freedoms.
Firstly, they are carriers of rabies, especially on the East Coast. In one example, a crazed raccoon in Ontario, Canada, attacked a mild manned bull mastiff named “Mr. Satan” after being captured by animal control. According to an analysis by The Last Word on Nothing raccoons are now the number one cause of rabies transmission to bull mastiffs named “Mr. Satan” in all of North America.
Now you might say that carrying rabies is not really their fault. That they didn’t choose to be vectors of disease. But you’d be naive. Of course they do it on purpose, just look at them.
And not just rabies, raccoons also carry leptospirosis, salmonella and raccoon roundworm. Raccoon roundworm – two words that should never appear in the same sentence. The propensity of the animal to carry disease coupled with its ubiquitousness and habit of attacking pets named Mr. Satan have led some observers to hypothesize that raccoons entered into a Faustian bargain with the fallen angel Lucifer. Others have questioned this assertion.
Regardless of where their inherent evil began, raccoons clearly hate America, God-fearing patriots, and the flag (particularly when it’s drawn in frosting on top of a pastry). They love only two things in this world: Meticulously washing their food and going on all-out killing sprees of chickens, cats, and occasionally humans. That’s right, raccoons have killed hundreds of humans. And by “killed” I mean “scratched up pretty badly after strategically tripping.”
A raccoon can strike at any time and in any place but studies have shown that most at risk are 11-year-old boys from California with haystack hair and boundless curiosity who catch them in cages so they don’t kill his pet chickens. Studies have also shown that they will make so much noise as to create emotional scars that last well into his forties.
Of course, these are only the bite-dominated attacks. There is another reason to fear raccoons. Unlike feral dogs, pigeons and even mountain lions, raccoons are the only large urban/suburban creatures with opposable thumbs.
Therefore, in addition to breaking into your garbage or stealing your prized GI Joe from the back porch, they are totally capable of operating a handgun (though monkeys, whom I have already vociferously denounced, also are capable of this).
One-third of all murders in the United States go unsolved. Most of these are shootings in urban areas – the very same areas often inhabited by raccoons. Given the number of shootings in America and the number of raccoons, it’s impossible to think that some of these shootings are not raccoon-related.
So how many of the murders in the US were perpetrated by raccoons? And how many innocent people are sitting in prison today, prosecuted for a crime committed not by their hands but by scaly little claws? Most of them? Certainly some.
And yet, to date only one raccoon in the history of the world, indeed the galaxy, has ever been prosecuted for premeditated murder.
But this is not just a story of terror and destruction; it’s also one of heroes. Heroes like Rachel Borch of Hope, Maine. In June of this year, she was practicing her constitutional right to jog in a forest near her house when she was set upon by a rabid creature who hated her freedom.
Loping towards her was an ungodly masked villain with murder in its eyes. But Borch stood her ground, her steely gaze matched only by her steely nerve. The two clashed like titans of old in an epic struggle ending with Borch drowning the fiend in a nearby puddle. Afterwards, I imagine her slouching back against a log, exhausted but secure in the knowledge that she had done her part to defend America against a lurking domestic terror.
No wonder she comes from Hope. Her story gives hope to us all.