The Secret Service may have the White House under lock and key, but that did nothing to stop a small band of masked minions from slipping onto the White House grounds last Thursday.
As The Washington Post originally reported, a group of raccoons – a large one and several smaller ones – entered the 18-acre President’s Park grounds and escaped capture from members of President Obama’s staff.
The National Park Service reportedly set live bait traps for the furry fiends with apples, cat-food and – presumably – salmonella-free peanut butter, The Post reported. As of last Friday, however, the raccoons had evaded capture.
“No raccoons that I know of have been caught or dispersed in other places in Washington,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told The Post in a Friday press conference.
Gibbs admitted he has a few raccoons camping out in his own backyard and said he was in no position to offer advice to the so-far unsuccessful Park Service workers.
Bill Line, communications and tourism officer for the National Park Service for the National Capitol Region, said that no damage had been done to The White House property.
Raccoons are not that uncommon in parts of the D.C. area, John Hadidian, the director of Urban Wildlife Programs for the Humane Society of the United States, told The Washington Post. He said they travel through the D.C. storm drain system, popping up occasionally to rummage through garbage cans and find their next meal.
“My theory on what’s going on has to do with the acorns,” Hadidian told The Washington Post.
He believes the raccoons, who typically hang out in the 1700-acre Rock Creek Park, are reacting to a shortage of acorns in the D.C. area that has driven them to search for more accommodating areas. This particular band of rascals opted for presidential lodging.
They are not the first raccoons to call the White House grounds home. National Geographic reported that President Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon named Rebecca, whom he walked on a leash. According to The Washington Post, Rebecca used to sit on his shoulder when she was not busy terrorizing his staff.
aybe it’s the fact that the Obamas have yet to choose their own pet, a presidential pooch, but the raccoons are receiving an enormous amount of attention, from newspapers and environmentalists, who question whether the raccoons should simply be left in peace.
One environmentalist blog, PlanetSave, suggested the Obamas let the raccoons stay.
“Have Sasha and Malia Obama become citizen[-]scientists by studying the lives of the raccoons,” the blog stated.
Unfortunately, the Obama girls may have missed their opportunity. Officials say that the evasive creatures have not been spotted within the last few days, according to the LA Times.
“The racoons were not caught or captured, but are believed to have left the White House grounds on their own,” Line said. “They likely climbed through the fence to get in and it is presumed they did the same to leave.”
Environmentalists need not worry, however. White House spokesman Bill Burton said that if the animals are captured, they will be released into the woods.