A family of 22 or so downright cuddle-worthy (but totally wild!) raccoons has taken up residence in the southern end of Central Park, where they have become the stars of many a hastily captured selfie. Some park visitors are getting too bold, though, according to wildlife officials who warn that people should not feed or touch the raccoons no matter how friendly they seem.
While city parks officials are quick to warn of the dangers of interacting with wildlife, however cute they may be, the risks don’t seem to prevent people from becoming enamored with the furry foragers. Many Twitter users have posted their own photos of the gaze (the name for a group of raccoons), including images that show people feeding the wild animals. Local media has picked up on the phenomenon as well, as evidenced by coverage in The New York Times and CBS New York. Although the CBS news anchor refers to the raccoons as “a problem,” park officials say that reported sightings of the critters have not increased. It’s clear, though, that their level of human interaction is on the rise, as people flock to feed the scavenging omnivores.
The final word from wildlife officials? It’s okay to take photos, but give the masked bandits their space. “Do not feed raccoons or any wildlife you might encounter in parks,” Sarah Aucoin, chief of education and wildlife for New York City parks, told Travel + Leisure. “Animals are best observed from a distance — it keeps both them and you safe.”
Move over, squirrels. The trash pandas are taking over.
Via Travel + Leisure