SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Normally, raccoons are nocturnal, skittish and shy animals. But not the ones we spotted in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and animal control officials say people have only themselves to blame.
Resident Heather Buren recently was walking her dog at the park when she was surrounded by aggressive raccoons that hissed and lunged at her. Her had dog slipped out of its collar, so she fought back.
"One of the raccoons started coming out of the bridge and started coming at us," said Buren. "I was able to take this [leash] and I started swinging, and so there were three of them aggressively surrounding us ... I was yelling at them, they were not backing down."
As she recounted the tale near a park bridge, Buren spotted one in the brush. Then a second emerged, and a third, and then the whole crew.
"I don't like the way he's just standing there looking at us," Buren said. "I think we should head this way."
Web Extra Video: Raccoons Roam Golden Gate Park
Park visitor Wendy Wald says the raccoons have been in Golden Gate Park for years and she has not noticed them being more aggressive.
"They usually just like this, praying that I'm going to give them food," said Wald.
A few blocks away, resident Sylvia Ramirez says raccoons living in the redwood trees in her backyard now come down during the day and go under her deck, which they've never done before.
Ramirez also recalled a raccoon strolled right up to her recently when she was walking on a trail a few miles away at Lake Merced.
"We have to coexist in the world with wildlife," said Ramirez. "We're the ones that are in their territory."
San Francisco Animal Care and Control Executive Director Virginia Donohue says humans are to blame for these close raccoon encounters because constant feeding has taken away their fear of people.
"Today when we look at somebody surrounded by a bunch of raccoons, that comes from feeding wildlife," said Donohue.
Park rangers say they've increased patrols in Golden Gate Park, and have put up signs warning that feeding kills wildlife.
"People think they're helping the raccoon," said Donohue. "They feed the raccoon, but if the raccoon gets to be too aggressive, eventually the parks will have to trap them, and once they're trapped they have to be euthanized because you can't relocate them."
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