Officials say the raccoons on Mount Royal are getting bolder.
And, after one crashed a city news conference warning people not to feed the animals to steal a picnic lunch for himself, it may be tough to disagree.
“Where the animals become dependent on human beings for food, it changes their behavoir and when the food is not there they could be quite aggressive to human beings and even bite human beings,” city councillor Alan De Sousa said Thursday.
Videos posted on YouTube show that the raccoons on Mont Royal are running in packs and have little fear of humans.
Officials estimate there are well over a hundred on the mountain, where tourist lunches and snacks of the scenery buffs are in steady supply.
“I agree raccoons are cute, but they should be kept cute from a distance,” De Sousa warned.
To make sure people keep that distance, patrollers from Friends of the Mountain will be out warning people against feeding the animals and advising them of the fines if they fail to comply. The fines range from $100 to $300 for a first offence.
Tourists can usually be deterred, the group said. It’s harder when it’s Montrealers who have made a habit out of feeding the raccoons.
“The hardcore are a little bit less open to the message and seriously believe they're doing a favour to the animals by providing them with chips and other kind of things that wouldn't be good for us,” said Gabrielle Korn ofFriends of the Mountain.
The organization said there are no reports of raccoon rabies in Montreal. But the animals in the area and those on Île-Bizard will be trapped and vaccinated as part of an ongoing campaign.
Humans should take heed however because raccoons can carry other infectious diseases.
It may seem like common sense, officials acknowledge, but it seems to go out the window when people are confronted by a furry face.