Raccoons take up residence at Fort Totten Metro station

By Nicole Norfleet
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010; B06

Metro brings together creatures of all kinds. Apparently that now includes raccoons.

During the past few months, several raccoons have made the Fort Totten Station a stop in their travels. Now some riders are saying there are limits to whom -- and what -- they will share their commute with.

Several raccoons caused a mini-commotion Monday night after they were spotted scurrying about the station, according to one rider. Passing commuters took photos as the animals ran in circles about 9 p.m. At least one raccoon ran toward the door of the Metro employee kiosk.

Metro workers have been feeding the raccoons, officials said. About 6 p.m. Wednesday, Allyson Wilson of Silver Spring said she saw a Metro employee leave the kiosk with what looked like a tray of food. The woman slid the tray through a hole in the wall near the kiosk toward a family of three or four raccoons.

On Thursday, as Wilson inched her way down the station escalator, she was treated to a return engagement by the raccoons. Only this time they were inside the station, in front of the kiosk, frolicking in the open. It was 4 p.m.

A female Metro worker stood between the animals and the descending commuters, Wilson recalled. It looked like she was "guarding them," Wilson said.

A man in front of Wilson yelled to the Metro employee that it wasn't right for the animals to be there. He did have a point. Animals are strictly prohibited from Metro trains and stations. But the Metro employee, clad in an orange safety vest, responded, "They have more right to be here than you do!" Wilson said.

Wilson, a former WTTG (Channel 5) news reporter, said she wished she had recorded the raccoons' appearance -- but she did Tweet the incident. Her Tweet was picked up by local blog UnsuckDCMetro the next day.

Raccoons are nocturnal creatures that are infamous for carrying the rabies virus. The District's Health Regulation and Licensing Administration advises residents to not keep wild animals as pets, even if they appear friendly. The recent winter storms have no doubt made it harder for the creatures to secure food, but the administration warns people to keep pet dishes inside and not to hand-feed wild animals.

Despite the dangers of close contact with raccoons, not every commuter has been taken aback by their stay at the Metro station.

College Park native Scott Maxwell watched with other Metro riders one January night as a hungry raccoon scurried back and forth to eat from a maintenance worker's hand. The whole scene was "pretty cute," he said. He even snapped a picture to post on his Facebook page.

"To encounter some wildlife in the Metro station -- can't say that happens all the time," he said.

Metro officials said Monday that the hole in a wall near the kiosk will be fixed and that Metro will "encourage the employees not to continue feeding the raccoons."

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