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City Departments To Public: Stop Feeding Raccoons On Chicago's Lakefront

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Along the craggy boulders that separate the Lake Michigan from land south of Montrose Harbor, you'll find raccoon rock.

Take the name literally.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, raccoons are everywhere along the lakefront near the east end of Irving Park Road.

Molina and her crew saw so many raccoons on a visit Monday afternoon that they lost count. But people who frequent the trail guess the raccoons number in the dozens – more than 30.

And video after video turns on social media showing people hand-feeding the raccoons. City departments have had quite enough of that.

Late in the afternoon, we caught more than one person showing up to the rocks – some driving in from the suburbs, food in hand.

One man, who did not want to share his name on camera, said he has been coming to the area with leftovers for years. He is comfortable with the growing number of animals that call the area home.

"They know him. The climb on him," another man said. "And he never got bitten or something."

The Chicago Park District, which oversees the area, is not OK with what is going on. But they haven't done anything about it.

Park District Press Secretary Irene Tostado said in a statement, "We ask that visitors not to feed wildlife in parks or along the lakefront for their own safety and the health and wellness of the animals."

Chicago Animal Care and Control shared the same message. Don't feed the raccoons.

"Chicago Animal Care and Control has not received any service requests for assistance with raccoons from this area. However, since access to food drives the majority of raccoon-related problems, Chicago Animal Care and Control does not recommend that residents feed raccoons or any other wildlife in the city," the department said in a statement. "In addition, disposing of food and trash properly is essential to preventing nuisance issues involving wildlife."

Outside of the obvious concerns that come with hand-feeding wild animals, raccoons are rabies carriers and can transfer other diseases and pests such as roundworm, according to the Humane Society.

Raccoons are protected by state code and there's nothing on the books that makes feeding them illegal, but it is technically littering and is subject to rules against doing so, according to Chicago Police.

The raccoon invasion in the area is not new. Back in the spring of 2011, the Park District said about 120 raccoons were trapped between Belmont and Montrose harbors on the North Side, as well as the harbors off Jackson Park on the South Side.

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times at the time, Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said the raccoons were living under docks, ransacking boats, and being aggressive toward people.

Charlotte Newfeld, steward of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the lake at Addison Street, complained in that 2011 Sun-Times report about people feeding the raccoons too. She told the newspaper that people acted as if raccoons were a "Disney-like creature," and went on feeding them even though police arrested some who did so.


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