When four months of surveillance confirmed a group of raccoons named the “Winn Dixie colony” were regular visitors binging on a lot of junk food in the Ormond area, St. Charles Parish Animal Control intervened.
The raccoons gravitated to the site near the grocery store, where area people were putting food for feral cats. Parish Animal Control stepped in when store customers complained about animal urine and feces.
“We simply relocated 16 of them due to cat caretakers reporting leaving food for cats more than once a day … because the abundant raccoons eat it all,” said Jena Troxler, parish Animal Shelter supervisor. “That species can carry round worms. They should not lose inhibition to humans, which is what occurs with feeding.”
Store customers complained about their feces and urine on the sidewalk, which made them a nuisance and required Animal Control remove the animals.
Humane traps were used to capture them. The animals were relocated near Airline Highway.
Steady observation of the area revealed these animals were being regularly fed, Troxler said.
Area residents have been asked not to feed the animals.
“Some raccoons were 30 pounds of obesity due to an inordinate amount of marshmallows, cat food, dog food [and] cereals dumped by cat caretakers in [the] area to deter them from eating cat food,” Troxler said.
She said the cat colony is closed to new animals with 14 existing cats spayed and neutered to prevent breeding and roaming.
Troxler said the cats are feral or semi-feral and will only be removed if business owners choose to trap them due to customer complaints.
But when fed properly – only once daily for 15 minutes, she said feral cats hunt and reduce the mouse and rat population.
“Some raccoons were 30 pounds of obesity due to an inordinate amount of marshmallows, cat food, dog food, cereals dumped by cat caretakers.” — Jena Troxler, Parish Animal Shelter supervisor
St. Rose’s Trapper John the Hog Man, also known as John Schmidt who routinely visited the area as a bank customer there, said he routinely observed up to eight bowls of water and up to eight piles of dry cat food there.
Then, Schmidt said, he saw other items, such as marshmallows, tossed aside intended to distract the raccoons from the cat food.
“This has been going on a long time,” he said. “Feeding the cats is the problem, which draws the raccoons.”
Schmidt added, “There are generations of this going on. Did you ever watch the movie, ‘Field of Dreams?’ If you build it they will come.”
And they came.
Now, with them addicted to junk food or just easily accessible nibbles, Schmidt predicted the raccoons “will walk right back” unless they’ve been relocated 10 miles or more away or across the river.
He also said it’s likely they’ll keep on returning unless the food is removed and he’s observed people bringing up to 50-pound bags of cat food there.
But Troxler said it’s gone.
Schmidt said while these people who fed them meant well, it’s important to know they pose health risks.
Troxler agreed, adding, raccoons carry round worms, which can be lethal to humans.
Schmidt added both animals can carry rabies. He also said feral cats can be so invasive to songbirds that some areas with heavy populations don’t have birds like cardinals anymore.
“They’re natural born hunters and they don’t let anything go,” he said. “They are basically little lions and tigers.”