After sunset at the Marble Hall Gardens apartment complex, residents can hear crickets chirping, see one or two security guards in yellow uniforms patrolling the premises and catch at least one raccoon scurrying by before they get to their door.
For the past few years, residents have reported multiple raccoon citings near the dumpsters by the Marble Hall apartment complexes. The animals, attracted to the overflowing dumpsters located by each court, have begun to breed and are growing in size and aggression. Residents and security are seeing as many as eight raccoons at a time.
Michael Haynes, a resident assistant at Marble Hall Gardens, said he has never seen raccoons of this number at any other student housing complex. Last year, he was an RA at Harper-Tubman House, an on-campus honor’s dormitory.
He warns his residents to be aware of their surroundings and avoid leaving trash outside.
“People joke about it, but these raccoons literally chase you when you go into your room,” he said. He recalled a time when he tried to get into the RA office at night which he added was about 500 feet away from the dumpsters, and a raccoon was waiting by the door for him.
Haynes said that some residents, in an attempt to interact with the animals, are getting chased and one resident was recently bitten by a raccoon.
Court 7 security guards say they see the raccoons every night. They come out in groups ranging from six to ten, usually in search of food and sometimes they climb up to the roofs of the apartment buildings.
Alexander Wooten, environmental scientist and assistant professor in the School of Community Health and Policy, said that raccoons behave similarly to rats. They acclimate well to urban environments and are attracted to places where humans populate because of the endless supply of left-over food in the trash.
By midday on Tuesday, the Court 7 dumpster is spilling over with trash and this is the kind of environment in which Wooten says that raccoons prosper.
“Raccoons are very intelligent mammals, very adaptable and omnivorous,” he said.
Joshua Olumese, senior computer science major, lived in Marble Hall Gardens last year. He said that the raccoon activity in the area played a major role in his decision to live in a different location this year.
“Some of them are bold,” Olumese said. “[They] won’t even budge when you walk past.”
For Haynes, the raccoons at Marble Hall Gardens are a safety concern. He believes that the university should put more street lights up around some of the areas that go completely dark by nightfall.
In the meantime, Wooten suggests that the university employs dumpsters that are secure so that animals can’t get into them as easily.
“Animals love free food,” he said. “Why go back to nature when you have all this food?”