Aggressive raccoon attacks woman and her dogs in downtown Vancouver

“The raccoon turned around and went on his back legs and started growling.”

Helene recounts the violent encounter she and her dogs, Chip and Salsa, had with a vicious raccoon. She was out for a walk in downtown Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood around 4:30 p.m. last week when out of nowhere a raccoon charged at her, biting her legs and then grabbing her dogs.

“I reached in to get my two dogs out. Then the raccoon looks at me very angry and starts attacking me,” she said.

Despite being overcome with fear, Helene was able to fight back.

“He was stuck on biting my legs. He was on my left leg and I was kicking him as hard as I could with my right leg.”

She screamed and tried to get into her apartment, but the raccoon followed and kept charging at Helene and her dogs.

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“I was afraid for my own life.”

She almost made it inside, but couldn’t open the door because she was holding Chip and Salsa in her arms while the animal continued to attack.

“When the raccoon saw that he had cornered me, he became even more aggressive and started going up on me and reaching for my dogs.”

As she frantically kicked the door, the raccoon grabbed at Salsa’s harness. Salsa slipped down and ran away in fear. After a frantic search, Helene found her dog dead in the middle of Georgia Street. It’s believed she was hit by oncoming traffic.

Helene is hoping her traumatic experience will help raise awareness and prevent another tragedy. It’s not the first time these types of attacks have happened in the area. In 2012, there were two unprovoked raccoon attacks, one in Coal Harbour and another in the West End. In 2014, there was another attack in the West End, this one involving a puppy. Still, animal control experts say attacks like these are rare.

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How to protect yourself

Randy Celinski, the owner and president of AAA Wildlife Control, says the animal in question “could have been sick.”

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Raccoons, he adds, are prone to aggressive behaviour during mating season which runs from mid-December to May. There are steps you can take, especially during that period, to ensure you and your pets safety.

When you’re walking your dogs make “an effort not to walk near any bushed areas or areas where wild animals may be hiding, whether it be a skunk or a raccoon,” he adds, “If they are approached by a human or a dog, for example, then they may be in more of an attack mode.”

In Helene’s case, the raccoon clearly showed no fear of humans. The primary reason why raccoons are not afraid to approach is residents and tourists feeding them.

“They become more accustomed to people, not afraid of people and almost looking to people for free handouts,” he said.

Celinski says if you do encounter a vicious raccoon, you should try your best to run and get out of the situation. If that doesn’t work, use force.

The City of Vancouver’s policy encourages residents to co-exist with urban wildlife, but discourages direct contact. The province won’t get involved with raccoon attacks unless there is “imminent threat.” Conservation officers say there have been a handful of reported raccoon attacks this year in Metro Vancouver.

READ MORE: Vancouver West End residents concerned about aggressive raccoon attacks

As for Helene, she is trying to cherish her memories of her beloved pets and hopes that her horrifying experience won’t happen to anyone else.

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“That was hard to accept that she was gone in such a violent way,” she said of her beloved pet. “I don’t want the loss to be in vain, I think there’s something to learn from this.”

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