LAKEWOOD, WA -- Vicious.
That's the only way to describe the raccoons that chased and scratched a woman at a local park Monday, her boyfriend says.
The victim, Michaela Lee, 28, was recovering with a generous dose of antibiotics and much-needed rest Tuesday.
Her ordeal was anything but peaceful around 1:30 p.m. Monday as she was walking her dog along a trail at close to where she lives.
"They came barreling after her," her boyfriend, Shane Bennett, told Patch on Tuesday.
According to Bennett and accounts from Lakewood Police, Lee was walking her dog when they encountered a pair of raccoons on the trail. The dog chased the animals up a tree, and Lee went to go get her dog.
Then a trio of raccoons jumped out of the nearby brush and began chasing the woman.
"She took off running with several raccoons chasing her as she ran away," Lakewood Police spokesman Chris Lawler said. "She made it about 75 feet to a neighbor's yard and was knocked down, tripped or fell."
At that point, the raccoons--which by now numbered six or seven--began to attack. One jumped on top of her, scratching and clawing all up and down her legs and arms. One raccoon tried to get to her face, but she managed to throw it off as it scratched her wrists.
In all, the attack lasted some 20 seconds--the longest 20 seconds of the nursing student's life.
The animals finally relented and a neighbor called an ambulance. Lee was transported to a nearby hospital.
The damage total: 16 different puncture wounds, numerous scratches, bruising, five staples each in her arm and leg, countless antibiotics and rabies shots.
Despite all that, Bennett says Lee is doing well. Media have been converging all day at their home and Fort Steilacoom Park.
Bennett says he and Lee aren't looking for sympathy. They just want to make sure it never happens to anyone else walking the trail.
They say Lee was lucky.
"For a child or elderly person, it could have been life-threatening," Bennett said.
They also hope park users will refrain from illegally feeding the raccoons, which they say encourages potentially dangerous human interaction.
(Lee spoke to KIRO. Click here to watch the video)
I contacted Lakewood Police spokesman Chris Lawler Wednesday about additional information regarding
Specifically, I asked him this question:
1) Does the city plan to do anything about the animals, i.e., close down the area, trap them?
Here was his response:
Since this was an isolated incident and not totally unprovoked, we have no plans to do anything with the raccoons/area unless we have another incident. This was a person with a dog interacting with wildlife that was probably protecting its young. I’ve notified our parks department and animal control will also be monitoring the area. Our animal control has already spoke with Fish and Wildlife and they concur no additional action is needed right now. If we have another incident, then we will consider further action, such as trapping them and/or closing off the area.
Also, Lawler shared a link from the state Department of Fish & Wildlife that provided some tips about raccoons:
Don’t feed raccoons.
Feeding raccoons may create undesirable situations for you, your children, neighbors, pets, and the raccoons themselves. Raccoons that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive when not fed as expected. Artificial feeding also tends to concentrate raccoons in a small area; overcrowding can spread diseases and parasites. Finally, these hungry visitors might approach a neighbor who doesn’t share your appreciation of the animals. The neighbor might choose to remove these raccoons, or have them removed.
Don’t give raccoons access to garbage.
Keep your garbage can lid on tight by securing it with rope, chain, bungee cords, or weights. Better yet, buy garbage cans with clamps or other mechanisms that hold lids on. To prevent tipping, secure side handles to metal or wooden stakes driven into the ground. Or keep your cans in tight-fitting bins, a shed, or a garage. Put garbage cans out for pickup in the morning, after raccoons have returned to their resting areas.
Feed dogs and cats indoors and keep them in at night.
If you must feed your pets outside, do so in late morning or at midday, and pick up food, water bowls, leftovers, and spilled food well before dark every day.
Keep pets indoors at night.
If cornered, raccoons may attack dogs and cats. Bite wounds from raccoons can result in fractures and disease transmission.
Prevent raccoons from entering pet doors.
Keep indoor pet food and any other food away from a pet door. Lock the pet door at night. If it is necessary to have it remain open, put an electronically activated opener on your pet’s collar. Note: Floodlights or motion detector lights placed above the pet door to scare raccoons are not long-term solutions.
Put food in secure compost containers and clean up barbecue areas.
Don’t put food of any kind in open compost piles; instead, use a securely covered compost structure or a commercially available raccoon-proof composter to prevent attracting raccoons and getting exposed to their droppings. A covered worm box is another alternative. If burying food scraps, cover them with at least 8 inches of soil and don’t leave any garbage above ground in the area—including the stinky shovel. Placing a wire mesh barrier that is held in place with a heavy object over the in-ground compost will prevent problems.
Clean barbecue grills and grease traps thoroughly following each use.
Eliminate access to denning sites.
Raccoons commonly use chimneys, attics, and spaces under houses, porches, and sheds as den sites. Close any potential entries with ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth, boards, or metal flashing. Make all connections flush and secure to keep mice, rats, and other mammals out. Make sure you don’t trap an animal inside when you seal off a potential entry (see Evicting Animals from Buildings). For information on securing chimneys, see "Raccoons in Dumpsters and Down Chimneys".
Prevent raccoons from accessing rooftops by trimming tree limbs away from structures and by attaching sheets of metal flashing around corners of buildings. Commercial products that prevent climbing are available from farm supply centers and bird-control supply companies on the Internet. Remove vegetation on buildings, such as English ivy, which provide raccoons a way to climb structures and hide their access point inside.
For more tips and information, visit Fish and Wildlife's website by click here.