Masked Intruders Roaming The White House Grounds

By Petula Dvorak and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 6, 2009

President Obama mocked the Washington area's Defcon 1 response to a few snowflakes last week. Let's see how the flinty Chicagoan does with the latest living-in-Washington challenge: critters.

With permission from the Secret Service, the National Park Service has been in hot pursuit of a pack of raccoons spotted roaming the manicured grounds near the White House, a spokesman said.

Masked bandits scurrying through Washington aren't news to the seasoned trappers who have made a handsome living relocating varmints from attics, crawl spaces and chimneys in homes.

"One time, in an apartment complex, I got called to look into something going up a crawl-space vent," said Karl Kaifes, who has been catching small beasts for 40 years. "I trapped two or three raccoons, a possum, a skunk and five cats. That's city living."

There is a joke at every turn here, and bipartisan humor abounds.

"The idea of raccoons on the White House grounds gives us great pause," spokesman Bill Burton said.

Or was that "paws"?

Others wonder whether the raccoons had been there all along, and the Texans who previously occupied the White House, with all the ranch dwelling they did, paid them no mind.

Still others believe the Obamas' dithering on the purchase of a guard dog gave the intruders a window of opportunity.

But John Hadidian, the director of Urban Wildlife Programs for the Humane Society of the United States, said he believes the raccoons are new to the 18 acres of President's Park surrounding the White House.

"My theory on what's going on has to do with the acorns," Hadidian said.

Did he say "ACORN"?

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