SOUTH CHICAGO — Raccoons have taken over another vacant house in the South Chicago neighborhood, climbing through a hole in the roof, scaring away feral cats and keeping neighbors up with a loud racket.
So one of the neighbors has resorted to trapping the raccoons as they wait for the city to help.
The raccoon was trapped by neighbors in the front yard of a vacant house on the 8500 block of South Saginaw, getting stuck in the metal trap that neighbors called the city to haul away.
“It’s a shame that we have to get traps with our own money; that’s the city’s job,” said homeowner Tracy Leggs-Doss.
She wouldn't say who set the trap, but she did say a lot of neighbors are frustrated with what they say is a lack of concern from the city and Ald. Greg Mitchell's 7th Ward office.
“I was told that we have to handle it, and it’s not their problem,”said Leggs-Doss, who has called 311 several times since last year.
The Chicago Department of Buildings emailed a statement Wednesday, however, saying that the city is aware of the vacant building.
"The city has been given authority by the Circuit Court to demolish the building," said spokeswoman Mimi Simon. "We will put this out to bid to our pool of demolition contractors by the end of the week, and the building will be demolished as soon as possible."
Ald. Mitchell's chief of staff, Chuks Onyezi, said the alderman is aware of the raccoon problem, but wanted to stress that this isn't just a 7th Ward issue, but a citywide one.
"We are working with Animal Care and Control," Onyezi said. "We take it seriously and are coming up with strategies to handle the problem."
He said it's a complicated issue because, often, the owners of these abandoned private properties can't be located, and the city can't just trespass. Some options in the past have been to trap and relocate the animals, he said.
DNAinfo reported on raccoons terrorizing neighbors in the 8300 block of South Saginaw Avenue last week — and killing a kitten named Simba. Now homeowners just two blocks away say they’ve been experiencing the same issue.
Leggs-Doss has owned her home since 1999. She has lived next door to a vacant house for the last five years. The original owner died and the family rented it out. Once the last tenant moved out, the owners stopped maintaining the property, Leggs-Doss said.
Grass in the backyard is taller than Leggs-Doss, and she’s about 5-foot-4. Only some of the windows are boarded-up, which gives the raccoon family access inside. They even tore a hole on the side of the roof.
A neighbor in the 8500 block of South Saginaw Avenue says that she sees the raccoons climbing into the vacant house through the roof. [DNAINinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
“They climb up the gutter to get to the roof opening,” she said. “If they can climb trees, they can climb a roof.”
Raccoons in the neighborhood aren’t new, Leggs-Doss said, but they seem to be growing larger in numbers and becoming more bold.
“One day, I was sitting outside, and I looked up, they were [climbing] out. It got to the point now where I call them gangsta raccoons,” she said. “They not afraid. You stomp at them, they just look.”
They’ve destroyed her garden, nibbling on the greens and cabbage, she said.
“I just gave up,” she said.
It’s difficult to sleep at night with them so close to her bedroom window.
“I hear them all the time, especially at 2 a.m., just fighting, mating.”
She said she wants to someone to buy the home and maintain it, but if that can't happen, the city can tear it down.
Neighbors in the 8500 block of South Saginaw Avenue say that raccoons live in this vacant house. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
Her friend Eli Perkins lives three houses down and has owned his home since 1974.
“The city won’t do anything. I’ve called numerous times,” he said.
He said he’s also tried the alderman who he voted for.
“I thought Greg would be good for the ward,” he said, but now he’s having second thoughts.
He started going on YouTube to learn ways to keep the raccoons away from his house and garden. A mixture of vinegar and cayenne pepper has worked so far.
“The city needs to find the owner,” Perkins said. “The weeds grow into trees, and all these abandoned, unkempt houses are to blame.”