VANCOUVER – Blanca Blandon was asleep in her boyfriend’s downtown Vancouver apartment when she was awakened by blood-curdling screams outside.
She ran out to the street to investigate the commotion, where she saw a large raccoon attacking a woman and her two small dogs.
“It went after the woman’s dogs, trying to attack them, and it jumped up on the woman’s leg, scratching her,” Blandon, 21, recalled in an interview Thursday, a day after the late-night animal attack.
“She was sprinting and screaming. This raccoon was just psycho.”
The unidentified woman was walking her dogs around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the city’s Coal Harbour district, not far from Stanley Park, when she encountered the aggressive animal.
Raccoons are common in Vancouver, few places more so than in Stanley Park and the surrounding areas. However, conservation experts say attacks are rare, particularly cases in which the animal hasn’t been provoked.
The woman’s screams attracted the attention of onlookers, who attempted to scare off the animal by yelling at it and shooing it away. Witnesses said the raccoon chased the woman for several minutes before someone managed to scare it off.
“The bystanders, some of them were running behind the woman and yelling at the raccoon,” said Blandon.
“Most people were just trying to make noise to scare it away.”
The woman and at least one of her dogs sustained minor injuries, police said. She was taken to hospital for a tetanus shot.
Laura Skelton, 44, ran out into her fifth-floor balcony when she heard the screams.
“This woman, she was running in circles with this brown thing behind her, and I mean like 20 pounds of big brown thing — I thought it was a dog,” said Skelton.
“And I realized, oh my God, she’s being attacked by this massive raccoon, and it was clawing at her and it was biting her dog.”
Skelton said one of the onlookers shouted at the woman to pick up her dog, but that appeared to make matters worse.
“When she picked (her dog) up, it was going for both of them, whatever it could get a piece of,” she said.
“Then it went at her, it was biting her wrists, it was jumping her and clawing at her legs. No matter what direction she ran, it was following her. She was terrified.”
By the time Skelton made it downstairs onto the street, the raccoon was gone. One of the woman’s dogs was gone; it was later found at the woman’s house several blocks away, said Skelton.
Skelton said the raccoon appeared to have several young nearby. Neighbours suspect someone in an area building has been feeding them, making them less scared of humans, she said.
“People just don’t get it,” she said.
“She (the raccoon) needs to go, because we’re all terrorized over here, we’re all afraid to walk our dogs at night.”
The province’s conservation officer service was looking into what happened.
Sara Dubois, of the B.C. SPCA said raccoon attacks are rare. When they do occur, they usually involve members of the public attempting to hand-feed the animals.
“This might be the only time I’ve heard of a physical attack that was so aggressive in my time working with the SPCA,” said Dubois.
“Often, a raccoon that was provoked, especially with a litter, it might show aggressive tendencies, but not actually make contact with people. But this, an unprovoked attack like that, is very rare.”
Dubois noted the raccoon population in B.C. does not have rabies.
She said the case underscores the need not to feed raccoons and other wild animals — not only for their safety, but for the public’s, too — and to be wary when approaching them.
“People shouldn’t be overly afraid of raccoons, they’re usually more afraid of us than we are of them,” she said.
“But if you see one and it seems like it’s not going to run away, just like a coyote in the city, you want to be loud and stomp your feet and clap your hands.”