LAKEVIEW — City raccoons typically don’t cozy up to people, but that’s not the case in Lakeview — where area raccoons have been spotted climbing up a man’s leg for scraps.
Katherine Schuler, of Lakeview, said she spotted the raccoons during an evening run Tuesday just north of Belmont Harbor. She was on the lakefront trail when she saw people standing to the side and bicyclists pulling over to take photos and videos.
Confused about what was happening, Schuler stopped and saw “so, so many raccoons,” she said. About 15 people also gathered to watch the creatures, with more stopping by for photos and then continuing on their way.
A man was feeding the raccoons chips and they clustered around him excitedly. Schuler’s video shows one of the critters climbing up the man’s leg. Other raccoons circled around them, Schuler said; there were as many as 20 at one point.
“They didn’t look vicious or anything,” Schuler said. They “looked super friendly. … I didn’t think they were super, super cute, but they weren’t disgusting, either. They seemed very calm and not wild animal-like.”
Dozens of the fuzzy creatures live in the area and, during the evenings, they can be seeing walking near the Marovitz Golf Course and exploring rocks along the lakefront between Montrose Beach and Belmont Harbor.
The creatures there have amassed a small following, with some people regularly leaving out food (which experts advise against) and others stopping by with treats they use to lure the raccoons for photos.
But Tuesday was the first time Schuler’s seen the raccoons in that area, though she runs on the path frequently.
Schuler said she used to spot raccoons all the time while growing up in Michigan and now she’ll be on the lookout for them during her runs.
“I thought it was cool and it was a nice distraction from my run,” Schuler said. “I just thought it was pretty crazy. … It was more crazy to see them in the city and it was just so unexpected, it not being super late at night.
“It felt very out of the element in the situation, which is what made it cool and weird.”
But the Park District, which oversees the land where the raccoons frequent and where Schuler shot the video, doesn’t want people interacting with the creatures.
“We ask that visitors not feed wildlife in our parks or along the lakefront for their own safety and the health and wellness of the animals,” a Park District spokeswoman said in an email.
Raccoons can get as big as 37.5 inches and can weigh up to 23 pounds, according to National Geographic. They’re active in the spring and summer, eating almost anything (including garbage) they can get their paws on, but they hibernate in the winter.
Though common around the United States, raccoons are a primary carrier of the fatal rabies virus, according to the Humane Society. They can also carry and transfer other diseases and pests, including roundworm and leptospirosis.
Raccoons can be active during the daytime, and it would be “highly unusual” for a raccoon to chase after a person or be aggressive, according to the Humane Society.
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