Locals ‘Appalled’ As Man Feeds Raccoons By Hand on Central Park West

A raccoon eats from a man’s hand on Central Park West. Photo by Melissa Rosati.

Since our story on the raccoon that climbed eight stories into a child’s bedroom last week, Upper West Siders have reached out to tell their own raccoon tales. And Melissa Rosati had a particularly shocking one she shared with us:

There’s a guy who feeds the raccoons at the M10 bus stop around 88th and CPW. I’ve seen him twice. He lays out a feast from his backpack and feeds this large raccoon by hand while the others eat from tins.

This is very dangerous for many reasons. Growing up in rural Ohio, I once saw a raccoon rip our German Shepherd to shreds. The dog nearly bled to death.

People who feed wild animals put all of us in danger. The raccoon cannot differentiate between someone enjoying a snack on a park bench while waiting for the bus and someone there to feed it. The raccoon focuses on the food. If the food is not forthcoming, the raccoon could easily rake its claws across a person’s body in order to get what it wants–the food.

We also received this note from another reader earlier this summer. It sounds like it may be the same guy.

I am appalled to report that a man drove up on a bike to the Northeast corner of 105 and CPW and is feeding (perhaps bread?) and petting a half-dozen raccoons standing on the wall between the sidewalk and the park. Almost worse are the group of people gawking and taking photos.

The source tells us that “This behavior continues, nearly every night, with raccoons crawling all over the guy, on this shoulder, eating out of his hands. The City sent their wild animal unit one time but nothing has changed.”

There was a rabies outbreak among raccoons in Central Park a few years ago, although that outbreak was eventually contained. Nine NYC raccoons have tested positive for rabies this year, but they all appear to have been found in the Bronx, according to city records.

As this video shows, raccoons will gladly grab food from the people’s hands.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 31 comments | permalink
    1. John says:

      Let’s stop feeding the raccoons. Let’s stop feeding the pigeons. And let’s especially stop feeding the horses which leave rank smelling horsesh*t all over the park. The ducks? I’ll allow it.

      • Mchelle says:

        I agree. Please do not feed any wild animals. Imho, I don’t think you should feed the ducks either. Food left behind from people trying to feed them is a problem too. Keep wildlife wild.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        You’re a raging anti-equestrianite! I don’t thing that’s a word, but it’s a Seinfeld reference and deserves respect!

    2. UWS_lifer says:

      Awwwww….now this is an article that I like. I think people are over-reacting about these little guys. If everybody would just lighten up a little that would be great. These varmints aren’t gonna hurt anybody.

      I’m not going to join in the feeding though…but if I did, what kind of things do these guys like to eat? meat, carrots, bread? stuff like that? Oreos? everyone likes Oreos

    3. izzy says:

      This is just nasty and scary, and completely unsanitary. Even worse than the strange squirrel man who hangs in Riverside Park around 99th street feeding the squirrels and accosting (as well as, bizarrely, filming) dog owners. Anyone else encounter him before?

      • Beth says:

        Yes. Is he new to the neighborhood? He lingers a little too close to Dinosaur Playground. He freaks people out.

      • Steen says:

        Yes, he tried to kick my dog once and is very scary. I actually took pictures of him to report him to the police as he was fairly unhinged.

        I didn’t realize he was threatening other people as well.

    4. Andy Scherer says:

      The person at 105 is there regularly. As are the raccoons.

    5. EricaC says:

      Perhaps this man feels he is being kind to the raccoons; that is not the case. Training wild animals to trust humans puts them in grave danger – from cruel people, from dependency on human provided food that can disappear when people move or die, from overpopulation based on an unreliable food source. It is not kind.

      Or perhaps he thinks his own pleasure in feeding the raccoons outweighs the interests of his fellow humans or the raccoons themselves. It does not.

      I am an animal lover and support responsible wildlife rehabilitation – I have no animus towards the raccoon, who are simply making their way in the environment we have created. But feeding them in this way is just wrong. It is a form of animal cruelty; it looks kind, but it isn’t.

      • Cat says:

        ITA with everything Erica said. I grew up in a heavily wooded area and love all animals, but anything that belongs in the wild (whether we’ve encroached on their habitat or not) shouldn’t be coaxed to accept food this way. I highly doubt the people feeding the raccoons would behave the same way with bears.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        I’d recommend you tell him – not us…. Thanks.

      • JeffS says:

        Absolutely correct. The feeding of pigeons is actually the most common type of self-styled merciful generosity seen on the UWS. The fact is that these birds multiply in proportion to the food supply. Many more pigeons will come into the world as a result of this over-feeding, and when the donors don’t come back (and, of course, they’re sporadic and unreliable food sources), the excess pigeons end up starving to death. As another writer has observed, the person feeding them is unaware of this outcome. It’s best just to let the fauna of the park eat what is placed there by the cycle of nature (acorns and seeds falling from trees), and not to supplement the food supply at all.

      • nwags says:

        Well said, EricaC!

    6. fay says:

      i saw a man in 71 and riverside in summer he had brought alot of peanuts for the racoons feeding them. he said he does this routinely. i took pictures of racoons picking up the peanuts.

    7. UWS Craig says:

      The worst thing is that raccoons are natural predators of rats. Let them eat rats, not crackers.
      My solution to the rat problem is to bring in snakes, wildcats, raccoons, weasels and owls. But this can never work if idiots feed them pizza and sushi.

      • Rat A. Tooey says:

        Youse says “raccoons are natural predators of rats. Let them eat rats,….”

        Yikes! Dats da best reason I ever hoid fer NOT feeding the little furry banditos.

        Save us rats! Feed us, not raccoons.

        Thank you

    8. Kylee The Cattledawg says:

      Give me a break. Raccoons are harmless. That Melissa is totally spreading Fake News! #RacooonsAreFriends

    9. Ruby in Gotham says:

      Raccoons can lose their desire and ability to hunt for their own food if humans keep feeding them. Human food is also not ideal for their digestion & nutrition. If a raccoon bites someone, the animal,if caught, has to be destroyed to test it for rabies, and this may result in healthy ones being killed. A raccoon is a wild animal & can behave unpredictably if it gets too comfy around humans. All of this comes from the wildlife experts who recently led an educational program in Central Park. They hope that we NYers will learn about the importance of leaving raccoons alone.

    10. Andrew says:

      Yep, I went feed these Central Park coons each week last winter, through the summer as well. Shut up about how it’s dangerous or bullsh*t rabies, they’re smart and happy to come get some bacon. Raccoons thrive in city environment anyway.

    11. A Westsider2 says:

      This’is an ignorant ass, no make that a stupid person, He does not get or care that this is a wild animal that’ll end up having to be destroyed! I hope the raccoon bites him to teach him a harsh lesson since he doesn’t heed professional advice.

    12. Yael says:

      It might be acceptable to leave a little APPROPRIATE food (fruit, nuts, vegetables) for the raccoons, if it’s a particularly harsh summer or winter…and its ALWAYS O.K. to leave out clean water for wildlife in the summer….but to feed the raccoons human garbage/ junkfood to amuse oneself is upsetting and not cool. As EricaC points out so beautifully, training wild animals to trust humans is never good for the animals (unless you are taming a feral cat, in order to bring them indoors!). I LOVE all the wildlife who reside in our parks and beyond. Teaching the raccoons to expect food from humans will (may already have) created problems that will lead to these naturally curious critters’ demise.

      • Jay says:

        Raccoons and pigeons do just fine on their own. We don’t have to do anything and they will survive. People will just make it worse for them if they feed them no matter if it’s a poor season or not.

    13. casandra says:

      Putting food out for wild animals
      can make them tame and vulnerable
      to people who hunt them or abuse them.
      Hand feeding a racoon is much
      like feeding a bear. They are
      both animals which do not hunt
      humans, but which are not afraid
      to rip a human apart, to get at
      the food they think the human
      is withholding from them.
      If you must feed a wild
      animal, then leave the food
      and walk well away. For your
      own safety and that of others.

    14. Sue Kantor says:

      If any of these animals are fed they stop looking for food found in “nature” and rely on man. Neither the pigeons, nor ducks, nor raccoons should be fed. Central Park is an eco system and feeding these animals really will upset the balance.

    15. PManze says:

      So over blown. Raccoons are generally kind creatures and harmless. They are not aggressive unless being attacked. I cannot believe how many people are reacting in such a cliched manner of city dwellers. It’s a big park – this is harmless.

      • EricaC says:

        It really isn’t harmless – not for the raccoons, not for the humans. Yes, bites are rare, but when they happen, they can be damaging – and they raise the risk of rabies, and the need for preventive rabies care if the raccoon can’t be found. As the raccoon climbing into the kid’s bedroom demonstrates, these types of conflicts are not unheard of, though they are rare.

        But it’s worse for the animals. They breed more than they would if they didn’t have an inflated food supply. That means they become too numerous for the environment to support. They start leaving the parks – we had one living in one of the scaffolding sheds on our street, blocks from the park – living in inappropriate places. They are hit by cars. They are caught and killed. They are, if lucky, removed to a place outside the city, but because they are so numerous, they are usually just killed.

        Moreover, if they are inappropriately friendly, they are more likely to come into conflict – raising the likelihood of (1) human interaction as noted above, and (2) the animal being killed to test it for rabies.

        It is easy to be dismissive of these things, and of course, there are much larger cruelties in the world. But there is something really disheartening about the casual disregard for another creature inherent in attitudes like what you have expressed here.

    16. Dw says:

      How can we do something about this guy at 105 and CPW? I see him there all of the time, usually starting an hour or so before sunset so he’s in position when the raccoons come out of their slumber. People come and take pictures with him, I’ve seen him entertaining children. It’s really dangerous to everyone involved including the raccoons. Part of the problem is he gets encouragement from completely ignorant passersby.

    17. T says:

      If you feed them (raccoons, squirrels, pigeons)
      they (RATS) will come.

      Bad for the raccoons, the squirrels, the pigeons.
      But every rat in NYC sends their thanks.

    18. B Flat says:

      Wild animals can take of themselves, they don’t need us to feed them.