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"Journey into the Whirlwind"
by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg

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by Khaled Hosseini


Sunday, September 3, 2006

The Raccoons Are Coming

When I took a basket and went out to pick some grapes, imagine my surprise to find that there were no grapes! What happened to the bunches that were hanging there a few days ago, nearly ready to eat? They were all gone! Every one! It must have been the raccoons. We saw a couple of little ones going over the fence recently. We donít mind sharing but raccoons evidently donít share!

I remembered the news item I had seen recently, about the gang of raccoons rampaging through the city of Olympia, Washington.

PSYCHO KILLER RACCOONS TERRORIZE OLYMPIA

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."

Then I read about raccoons in Brooklyn:

On Friday evening, Tobyjoe and I walked to Miyako on North 7th to get some Sushi. As we were leaving, we saw a small group of hipster gals standing at the empty lot next to the Fish Shack. They were giggling and bending down and taking pictures. Knowing that there are numerous stray cats in said lot, I figured they were having a moment with the kitties. We walked up and looked in. Mind you, it was very much still daylight and so you might imagine how shocked I was to see a pack of raccoons swarming the lot. They were tearing into a bunch of cat food cans left there for the strays while the strays were standing outside the fence where the people were, scared out of their heads and equally as confused and perplexed as we all were. Tobyjoe counted 6 raccoons. There was a mother whose nipples were still stretched out from all the work and at least 5 babies. They were fighting with one another over the food. They were making noises like gremlins. It was actually kind of scary.

But imagine my horror when I saw this:

Nazi Raccoons on the March in Europe

The story begins in 1934, when a breeder asked the Reich Forestry Office, then led by future top Hitler aide Hermann GŲring, for permission He looks harmless, but Kassel residents would beg to differ.
They're actually American but feel right at home in Kassel, Germany, which has become the European raccoon capital since the animals were introduced here under the Third Reich to release the masked-faced mammals to "enrich the local fauna" outside Kassel, a small city north of Frankfurt.

"Raccoon pelts were a popular trophy for hunters back then," biologist Ulf Hohmann said. "They were also raised for their fur at special farms" after they were imported from North America early last century. Seventy years on, the furry critters are now as populous in some areas of Germany as in the major urban centers of North America -- a whopping one per hectare (2.5 acres), Hohmann said.

It is a raccoon's urban paradise. Somewhere between 100,000 and one million raccoons are estimated to live in Germany, making them prime targets for hunters. Some 20,000 were shot during the last season, according to official statistics. But unfortunately for the denizens of a growing number of European capitals, they like cities. Hundreds of thousands have fanned out to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and France. The news caught the ire of Britain's Sun tabloid, which warned its readers that "Nazi raccoons" were "just across the Channel" and "on the warpath ... in a furry blitzkrieg".

Furry blitzkrieg?

Have a grape.

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