Via Justin, both Coco and I were quite fascinated by the story about “psycho killer” raccoons:

OLYMPIA, Washington – A fierce group of raccoons has killed 10 cats, attacked a small dog and bitten at least one pet owner who had to get rabies shots, residents of Olympia say.
Some have taken to carrying pepper spray to ward off the masked marauders and the woman who was bitten now carries an iron pipe when she goes outside at night.
“It’s a new breed,” said Tamara Keeton, who with Kari Hall started a raccoon watch after an emotional neighborhood meeting drew 40 people. “They’re urban raccoons, and they’re not afraid.”
Tony Benjamins, whose family lost two cats, said he got a big dog ? a German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix ? to keep the raccoons away.

Wildlife monitors seem to be in a huddle over how to keep the peace:

The attacks, all within a three-block area near the Garfield Nature Trail in Olympia, are highly unusual, said Sean O. Carrell, a problem wildlife coordinator with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, adding that trappers may be summoned from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove problem animals.
“I’ve never heard a report of 10 cats being killed. It’s something were going to have to monitor,” Carrell said.
Meanwhile, residents have hired Tom Brown, a nuisance wildlife control operator from Rochester, Washington, to set traps, but in six weeks he has caught only one raccoon. He and Carrell said raccoons teach their young ? and each other ? to avoid traps.
Brown said he had seen packs of raccoons this big but none so into killing.
“They are in command up there,” he said.

That sounds like a pretty scary situation. “Urban raccoons” are “not afraid” and apparently are “in command”?
I’m wondering why isn’t this happening in rural areas. Might it relate to the phenomenon increasingly called “victim disarmament” (via Glenn Reynolds) — aka “gun control”?
I’d be willing to bet that the raccoons wouldn’t be acting this way in a rural area, because they know they wouldn’t get away with it.
If this sounds fantastic, consider that raccoons are highly intelligent animals — considered more intelligent than cats, and if accounts like this are true, they’re certainly smart enough to understand the danger of guns:

Stories about the raccoon’s “intelligence” or problem solving ability are based in truth, and many farmers tell you how a raccoon learned to open a chicken-coop door or similar closure.
Sparky, our pet raccoon, craved raw eggs. Once when Thedie, my stepfather, gave Sparky a raw egg after introducing him to a new pen, the animal exhibited what appeared to be intelligence. The new pen had a chicken wire bottom raised about 6 inches above ground level. Sparky held the egg pointed-end upright, bit around it, pried off the excised portion, and began to lap out the raw egg. The egg tilted over, however, and it spilled through the wire to the ground. That had not been a problem in his former, solid, wood-floored pen.
Given another egg, Sparky took it directly to his food bowl, and we never saw him lose another egg through the wire. Was it intelligence or problem solving or just happenstance? In intelligence tests using food as the reward, raccoons took just 800 trials to achieve 75% success on a problem while cats required 7,000 trials to reach the same success rate.
John Lawson in his account of his early travels through Carolina wrote that the raccoon fished by dipping its tail into a stream. When a crab or crayfish clamped onto the “bait” the raccoon was said to withdraw its tail with the attached crustacean. The chances are good that Lawson heard the story from Indians and simply passed it on as a personal observation.

They’re smart enough to enjoy getting loaded:

Lawson also wrote that the raccoon was particularly fond of fermented or “rotted” fruit, and that account is true. Sparky proved his taste for alcohol when he climbed onto the shelf created by 2, side-by-side, 5-gallon jugs of fermenting grape wine. He was running free in the kitchen/dining room as mother cooked dinner, and he had gotten quiet. When Sparky became quiet, it was time to investigate.
Mother found him perched on the jugs, dipping one hand down as far as it would go into a jug from which he had removed the cheesecloth cover. His fingers extended about halfway into the bubbling mixture, and he would pull out his hand, lick off the wine, and then reach for more. Mother called me to see what Sparky was doing, and I poured out a saucer full for him. Have you ever seen a raccoon with a “buzz”? We laughed at his antics until our stomachs hurt.

Another account of raccoon smarts:

The intelligence and dexterity of a raccoon is such that it can pick an avocado from a tree, aim, and throw it at a barking dog. Door knobs that can be turned — without locks — are no obstacle for a raccoon to open.

Lots more examples here, including picked locks, opened and pilfered refrigerators, etc.
I think any animal smart enough to unlock a door is certainly smart enough to figure out whether their victims (or their owners) are capable of an armed response.
There’s been a lot of discussion about whether wild animals are losing their fear of man. I think it’s obvious that they are, at least in cities.
I mean, what’s to fear?
At a number of official websites like these there’s all kinds of advice about “what to do” about problem raccoons, and much of it involves highly complex strategies involving specialized animal repellant products, and the use of psychology.
According to the Ohio State link, “densities of raccoons can be twenty times higher in urban areas than in rural environments.
Twenty times higher? Can anything be done? Why is it that so many animals were once afraid of man, and now they’re able to terrorize them?
Was it always this way?
Perhaps city people can find the answer by studying history.
In that regard, I found an interesting reference work which might be of some value, and I humbly present it to my readers in the hope that no stone might be left unturned in the search for solutions.

raccques.gif

Coco wants a copy!
cococloseup.jpg

(I like it when I don’t have to photoshop stuff.)
MORE: In their search for solutions, perhaps the city folks could start a new fashion trend when they visit City Hall with their demands….
CrockettHatB.jpg

(Coonskin caps used to be popular when I was a little kid. As seen on TV!)