White House raccoons safer than in Philly

Note to Philly raccoons: turn on the GPS and high tail it to1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C. It may mean the difference between life and death.

Seems Philadelphia's raccoon epidemic is forcing some drastic action,  including the passage of an emergency city ordinance and threats of shoot-to-kill orders.

President Obama took a different approach in 2009 when the masked critters took up residence in his house: the National Park Service was brought in to humanely trap and move them "to an undisclosed location." Upon the capture of the first raccoon on Feb. 25, 2009, the press office confirmed to the Washington Post that one raccoon had been trapped and was taken back to the wild and released.

Can't we do that in Philadelphia? Well no, Philly doesn't have the National Park Service  at their beck and call for one thing. Animal control works differently in Philadelphia, responding only to cats and dogs, leaving wild things with no protector. In D.C. and surrounding suburbas animal control officers respond to all wildlife issues reacues of orphaned wildlife, critters trapped in storm drains or otherwise in distress.

Take this incident from Fairfax County, Va., reported in the Washington Post just last month.

Raccoon in bathroom: Bradwater St., 3800 block, Sept. 18. Animal control captured a raccoon in the bathroom of a townhouse and released it back into the wild. There was no known exposure.

Now how hard was that?

We take a hard core lock-and-load approach in Pennsylvania. Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators - of which there are few - are allowed to possess native wildlife like raccoons. Reports of the Pennsylvania Game Commission officers seizing and destroying animals taken in by Good Samaritans pop up every year.

Oh wait, state law says you can't even take a critter, nuisance or not, back to the wild. You must destroy anything you catch in a humane "live trap."

You have a friend in Pennsylvania, wildlife.

So enter Philadelphia where raccoons are running rampant, chasing little girls down the street. The City Council passed a bill sponsored by Councilman Darrell Clarke creating what amounts to an open season on raccoons, requiring an animal removal contractor to come in a trap all the city's raccoons. Now Clarke - after an outcry from animal rights activists - wants to amend the bill so that it targets only nuisance raccoons and humanely traps and relocates them. (Here's the story from the Daily News.)

We don't know how that will square with the all-powerful Game Commission. We await the next chapter.

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