WARNING: This story contains photos which may be disturbing to some readers.
It starts like any other night. You’re out for a romantic date with your wife, when suddenly someone and their dog is attacked by a raccoon and you have to stomp it to death.
Oh, and also your dad is there with a machete.
And then you post about it on Twitter.
This is apparently what happened to former National Post journalist Tristin Hopper last weekend in Victoria. In a post shared to Twitter, Hopper showed a seemingly dead raccoon under the heel of his dress shoe with the caption “Romantic night with wife cut short by having to kick a potentially rabid raccoon to death. Randomly attacked a pedestrian.
Feedback to Hopper’s post was quick and critical.
Hopper defended his choice, further posting a photo of himself taking the original photo, with his father and the “machete they used to finish it off” off to the side. He also noted that neighbours had thanked him and his father for intervening in the situation.
In an email to HuffPost Canada, Hopper confirmed that he killed the raccoon after coming across it attacking a woman and her dog around 10 p.m. at night.
“I tried two soccer (side of the foot) kicks to the raccoon to shake it off, but it pursued its attack. So, I managed to get my foot on the animal’s neck, which stopped the attack and allowed the woman and her dog to flee the scene,” Hopper wrote. “It is very reasonable to believe that had I not intervened, that dog would be dead.”
According to the B.C. SPCA, Hopper was being investigated for animal cruelty. But Hopper said an officer from the SCPA looked into the situation and ultimately found no wrongdoing. Hopper said he called Victoria police immediately following the incident, but felt like killing the raccoon right away was the only thing to do in the situation.
“I didn’t think it responsible to release the animal without knowing whether it would turn on myself or another bystander,” he wrote.
He said that animals that attack humans are often put down.
“I could have waited upwards of an hour holding down a panicked animal by the neck, only to have it collected and euthanized by authorities anyway,” he said. “So, I motioned for a man who was out for a smoke to grab a stick and kill the animal as quickly as we could: With quick, forceful blows to the spine.”
Hopper said the machete in the photo came from his nearby home, where he had it for a recent camping trip. His father who lived nearby brought it to ensure the animal was dead.
What should you do if you encounter a raccoon?
Shockingly, Hopper isn’t the first journalist to have a deadly encounter with a raccoon and choose to make that public. Earlier this year, Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick wrote about stabbing a raccoon with a fork. Because apparently that’s the world we live in.
WATCH: Toronto raccoon breaks into kitchen for snacks, stares down owner. Story continues below.
And according to experts, it is highly unlikely a person would ever get in a situation where it would be necessary to kill the animal. Andrea Wallace manages Wild ARC, the British Columbia SPCA’s wild animal rehabilitation centre. She says that raccoons are ultimately harmless.
“I can’t imagine what the circumstances would’ve been for a raccoon to attack a person,” she told HuffPost Canada. “It’s not usual. Raccoons are usually quite intimidated by people and don’t normally want to come into contact with people.”
She says that while it’s technically legal to kill raccoons in B.C., she was “horrified” at the photo of Hopper stepping on the raccoon.
“It’s quite alarming,” she said. “We definitely discourage people from killing a raccoon. There’s lots of other ways to encourage it to move on.”
Wallace said raccoons will only act aggressively if they think you’re threatening their food or babies. In that case, she advises giving the animal a wide berth and respecting its space to let them know that you’re not a threat. But ultimately, they’re not a danger.
Wallace also said it’s incredibly unlikely the animal was carrying rabies, as Hopper suggested in his tweet.
“Raccoons are not rabies vector species in B.C., so they’re not a risk for people,” she said.
When encountering a wild animal in the city, Wallace has two main pieces of advice: don’t feed urban wildlife, and give them their space.
“They’ll only defend themselves if they feel threatened,” she said. “So just respect that they’re living animals and they need to forage for food and bring up their young, just like any other mammal. So it’s important just to give them the space and the habitat to be able to do that.”