Raccoons have become increasingly aggressive in their attempts to hunt people and pets in Australia, with a spike in the number of fatal attacks reported.
The National Raccoon and Pest Management Association (NRPMA) says more than 1,300 people have been killed by poachers since 2008, compared to 400 the year before.
“Raccoons are increasingly trying to hunt for food, and we’re seeing more and more cases where we have victims who are in the vicinity of the carcasses of animals,” chief executive, Mike Williams, told ABC News.
“They’re coming into the community, they’re hunting for food and there’s no place to hide.”
Williams says the spike in reported attacks is likely a result of the new policy, which makes it illegal to use any kind of “rubber gun”.
“They’ve got to go through the proper process and they’re going to get caught,” he said.
“There’s no doubt they’ve got a pretty big appetite for people, particularly dogs and cats.”
Williams said it’s a particularly dangerous time for poachers, since most poachers will have a “strong motivation to kill”, but also a “clear sense of entitlement”.
“A lot of people will go on the run and that’s a very dangerous time to be in that position,” he told ABC Radio National.
“And so it’s just a great concern for us.”
Raccoon kills rise to 2,700Raccoones are now on the rise in Australia and New Zealand, and are blamed for more than 2,200 animal deaths since 2008.
In the United States, there have been at least 1,400 recorded attacks since 2009, and an additional 1,600 have been reported since the beginning of 2018.ABC News spoke to three people who survived the attacks.
The first person, who asked to remain anonymous, was working at a local park when a raccoon walked past.
She thought it was a family member, and approached the animal to try and capture it.
“It was like a small dog running through the grass and I just tried to get my hands on it and get it to go away, because I thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?'” she said.
The second victim, who works at a nursing home, said the animal was a large, grey, heavily muscled raccoonedo.
“He was so huge.
He was like 10-foot-three, and it looked like he had two arms,” she said of the raccoo.
The third survivor, who worked in the construction industry, was in the kitchen of her home when she was attacked.
“I heard a noise and I thought somebody was kicking something in the hallway, but it was just me and my husband,” she recalled.
“We were in the house at about 2:30 in the morning, and I think we heard someone come through the door and then someone yelled, ‘Get out of the kitchen’.”
It was in her home that she found the animal.
“The raccoone was in my kitchen, and there was blood all over the place,” she told ABC RN.
“You could see it on the wall.
It looked like it was trying to crawl into my hand and my hand was trying not to come out.”
The nurse’s husband rushed to the scene and found the rascal dead.
“All I could think of was I’m not going to see my wife again,” he recalled.
The rascal had been shot with a gun that was designed to shoot rubber bullets, and Williams said it could have been any of the other types of rubber bullets that are used.
“That’s the type of bullet that is commonly used in the UK,” he explained.
“A rubber bullet is basically a hollow point, which is essentially a high-velocity bullet.”‘
It’s like a game of telephone’The NRPMA says the increase in attacks has caused some local authorities to restrict outdoor activities and increase patrols.
“These are extremely dangerous times,” NRPPA general manager, Wayne Gough, told The ABC.
“When you have an attack, we have to take precautions, because it’s like an emergency phone call for local communities.”
“And we have a responsibility as a community to be vigilant in the area and be aware.”
Gough says it’s important for people to stay aware of their surroundings and be careful with the animals they keep pets.
“This type of activity has to be monitored.
It’s like the game of phone, it’s the same way, but we’re trying to put people in control of the situation.”