‘Electric’ company! Here’s one woman’s shocking plan to bar raccoons

‘Electric’ company! Here’s one woman’s shocking plan to bar raccoons
Photo by Natalie Keyssar

One Greenwood Heights woman is so fed up with raccoons that she’s started giving them electro-shock therapy.

Tracey McTague and her husband installed an electrified fence surrounding their lush garden on 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues — but the masked bandits are still managing to find a way into their oasis.

“They are very clever,” said McTague. “They are like Moby Dick. If you are going to hate an animal, they should challenge your wits.”

McTague said that for years, she was quite happy living alongside the wild beasts, until the problem “just escalated” over the past five years.

“It’s kind of like sea gulls at a garbage dump,” she said, noting the condo explosion during the building boom that swept the borough over the same period.

With a baby and a dog to worry about, McTague began to notice — and fear — mounds of raccoon poop, which can be home to parasitic roundworms.

But the last straw came a year ago, when a sadistic raccoon fished out McTague’s five beloved koi — and left them to die beside their pond.

After that, she said, “We kind of declared war.”

Husband Brendan Lorber found a farm company in Alabama that sells the fences, and installed it last summer. The fence, she said, delivers several times the voltage what would deter a farm animal. That’s because, according to the Alabama pest management employee who sold them the equipment, “ ’Coons are that much tougher.”

But even with the fence, nature always finds a way.

The raccoons quickly learned to dig underneath to access the garden. That was fixed after the couple installed wooden planks to thwart their tunneling.

Now they’re using rain gutters and a wisteria canopy to somehow swing their way into the garden.

The Greenwood Heights raccoons are part of increasingly common reports of raccoons being raccoons. The Internet has recently been abuzz with raccoon sightings in Park Slope, including the sad (or happy) tale of one wayward beast who apparently suffocated itself in a kitchen drawer inside a Park Slope brownstone.

“They are wreaking havoc everywhere,” said block resident Aaron Brashear, a founding member of the Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights. “My neighbors and I are at a boiling point because now they are trying to break into our houses.”

And Brashear has the evidence, pointing to ’coon prints on the side of the vinyl siding of his home as Exhibit A, and a clawed screen with raccoon hair dangling from the torn mesh as Exhibit B. Uprooted fruits and vegetables in his backyard garden further bolster his damning case.

Brashear recently hired a trapper who captured two raccoons, one weighing upwards of 25 pounds.

The trapper, Bensonhurst-native Giovanni Rivera, owner of Critter Ridders, said he brings the animals to foster families, who find homes for the animals at sanctuaries and zoos. Removing a raccoon costs about $200, and Rivera tempts them with a surprising treat.

“They tend to like watermelon,” he said.

The Department of Health said it has not received any complaints about a raccoon problem in Greenwood Heights.

The agency suggested avoidance of wild animals, which can carry rabies, but if a resident “considers a raccoon on their property to be a nuisance, they should contact a licensed private trapper to remove it.” If an animal poses a danger, residents are advised to call 911.

Brashear said he’d prefer if the city foots the bill for dealing with the animals that he regards with the same disgust as common sewer rats.

“At this point, the city needs to step in,” he said. “If euthanizing is a way to look at it, I don’t have such a big deal with that,” he said. “These cute little critters are not so cute anymore.”

McTague, still scarred from the koi massacre, doesn’t want to see the raccoons killed. “But if I could catch one, I’d kick it in the ass,” she said.

Raccoons are wreaking havoc in Greenwood Heights. Here, a trapped juvenile ponders its fate.
Aaron Brashear