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Neighbors frustrated by year’s-long raccoon infestation

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Dina Smith thought raccoons were cute until they moved into the attic next door in her Salt Lake City neighborhood. Now, she’s frustrated and fed up with the fury critters, and can’t find anybody to help.

“For seven years now, they’ve been coming and going and having babies,” Smith said, pointing at the vacant home two feet from her patio.

“One year we had 10 babies up there.”

She understands conflicts with neighbors pop up on every street in our communities, but when raccoons are the only residents next door, a proper eviction isn’t easy.

“They’ve definitely taken over the attic,” she said.

Smith’s mother has owned her well-kept home and beautiful yard in the Marmalade District just west of the State Capitol for 30 years.

For the last nine years, Dina has lived there too. She said she first spotted a mother raccoon with her babies next door seven years ago.

“There were three baby raccoons hanging on our fence. Just hanging there,” she said.

They watched as the mother pulled each of the baby raccoons back into the attic.

“We thought that was the coolest thing ever,” she said, but she called the owner, who promptly boarded the roof to keep the raccoons out.

“So, the raccoons couldn’t get in,” Smith said. “However, they were already in there. So they forced their way out.”

The animals destroyed the soffit, pieces of which hang from the roof in places. Other damaged material has gathered at the side of the house.

“When they walk along there,” she said, pointing to the mangled soffit, “Their feet break through. It’s just bad.”

The owner disputes that raccoons have taken over his attic.  In a phone conversation, he said he has trapped about 10 raccoons over the years, releasing them humanely in the mountains.

He also said the problem has not been going on for seven years, but could not cite a specific time frame.

He said he has traps in the house now, and said it’s important to him to treat the raccoons humanely, as he works to repair the house. Smith isn’t so sure he’s taking care of anything.

“Trapping raccoons doesn’t do any good, if you don’t fix the damage,” she said.

Her dogs have fought with the raccoons when she couldn’t keep them away.

“He had scratches all over his face,” she said, adding that the dog and a cat had to have expensive vet treatments in the past.

Smith filed a complaint with the Salt Lake City Housing Authority in February. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said they were planning an inspection on Thursday. They don’t have the enforcement authority to make the owner do anything.  He said they can only urge him to take care of it.

Raccoons are not protected animals in Utah.  They are not managed as wildlife.  Last night, Smith spotted a sickly raccoon, and later, discovered it dead on her patio.

“We were trying to find someone to help us,” she said.  “No one would help us. (Salt Lake County) Animal Control won’t even touch raccoons.”

She’s right. Salt Lake County Animal Control does not remove raccoons, they recommend professionals.

“Raccoons are very prevalent, especially in the downtown, Marmalade and the Avenues area,” said Caleb Stroh who’s been wrangling raccoons, skunks and snakes for 14 years with his Critter Control business.

“Anything that a five-year-old can tear into or pull off, a raccoon can get into,” he said.  “They will actually chew through shingles. They will tear through wood, soffits, any kind of gap that they can get their fingers around.  We will get up in these attics and those raccoons have been there for years. They damage the insulation, droppings, year’s-worth. It can get very serious.”

Raccoons are resourceful, tough and capable of squeezing through small gaps.

“We get five or six calls daily, at least, this time of year in the spring about raccoons getting it to attics, chimneys, crawlspaces.”

But, Smith cannot authorize a professional to evict raccoons from her neighbor’s home, even if she wanted to pay for it.

“You can trap them,” said Stroh.  “The very best thing to do is to fortify your home. Fortify it so they can’t tear their way in.”  But, you need to evict all of the raccoons before you fortify the home. Smith said that none of that seems to be happening.

As far as fortifying his house, the owner said he’s working on it, and will have the house sealed up in the next few weeks.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Smith.

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