Besides the blight of foreclosed and vacant properties, Chicago is dealing with a squatter problem: "raccoons as big as orangutangs and bolder than ever before," the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported.

The city received 6,000 foreclosure filings in the first two months of this year, the newspaper said, and the vacancies seem to have rendered the nocturnal creatures fearless.

Resident Wilma Ward confronted what she said was a giant raccoon in her kitchen recently, and told the City Council’s Health Committee about it, the paper said.

"I looked down the hallway and I saw a set of eyes. They weren’t low. I realized it was a raccoon because my neighbor had seen one around. There were two vacant buildings at the time across the back alley," Ward told the committee.

She then barricaded herself in her bedroom until morning and found out that the raccoon had clawed past the screen and squeezed through the bars of an open window. It left corn curls and dry macaroni all over the floor, she said.

Since 2007, the city’s animal control officers had distributed traps only when wildlife invaded homes or attached garages, the paper said, but Ald. Robert Fioretti introduced a City Council resolution to restore the previous policy: to distribute traps when animals invaded backyards or went through residents’ garbage.

It was the latest in a series of reported wildlife visitations at vacant properties across the country.

Bears make themselves at home

Last year, a bear and her two cubs broke into a foreclosed home in Collier County, Fla., TV news outlet reported. The bears were apparently attracted to food the previous owners left behind.

"I went over to look, since this house has been vacant, and (the house) looked like it was ransacked," a neighbor told the news outlet. "It was destroyed. All the cabinets are emptied out. There’s basically flour, food, everywhere. All over the floor." …CONTINUED

Even after the county sheriff locked up the home, the bears still come back daily, the neighbor said. "They’ve lost their fear of man."

According to the news outlet, Florida fish and wildlife officials were to send bear biologists to the neighborhood to investigate.

Bobcats haunt vacant home

In Lake Elsinore, Calif., a neighbor of a foreclosed home spied what appeared to be mountain lion cubs on the wall of the vacant home, reported The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside County.

"They were just lounging there," said resident Karen Brown. "They were literally just lying on the wall looking at us."

The "cubs" turned out to be full-grown bobcats that had set up camp along with their young in the home’s backyard, animal control officers told the paper.

By the time officers arrived at the house the sun had set, and "with a flashlight, they think they saw quite a few little eyes," Willa Bagwell, director of Animal Friends of the Valleys (which provides animal control services for the city), told the paper.

Animal control officers distributed fliers to the neighborhood’s residents to tell them to keep an eye on pets and small children, the paper said.

This was the first time Bagwell had heard of a wild animal taking residence at a foreclosed property, the paper reported.

Many pets have also been discovered in vacant, foreclosed homes (see related story).


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