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Caytie Brown

College and career counselor Camille Nix seeks higher ground by standing on a desk after a raccoon scurried into her classroom toward the end of first period today. After the room was evacuated, faculty members were able to coax the raccoon into a trashcan and then let it go outside.

Raccoons make landfall

Three furry invaders fall from ceiling, disrupt first period; two caught then released outside, one escapes into ceiling

After an ordinary hour and a half or so to begin the day today, the early morning calm within classes was abruptly and chaotically put to an end just as the first period drew to a close. Mac found itself the victim of yet another raccoon infiltration. Unlike the singular corpse that caused widespread and odorous torment to most in the main campus building several weeks ago, however, this invasion was carried out by several young, very much alive counterparts.

[A raccoon] ran under my chair into the back corner of the classroom, and everyone was screaming and stood on their chairs.

— senior Thea Cahoon

Campus safety monitor Bob Bedard was, as usual, among the first to know of and respond to the initial encounter with the mammalian marauders around 10:15 a.m., when he was alerted to the presence of two of the creatures after they entered the main hallway via a weak ceiling tile. Bedard noted that the raccoons split up to pursue opposite directions simultaneously, in a way that resembled coordination.

Freshman Ava Bernitz happened to be walking by at the time of the breach and was understandably not anticipating such an overt entrance by the pair of catlike critters.

“I was walking down the hallway and I heard a loud ‘slam’ noise, almost,” Bernitz said. “And then I looked and saw two little raccoons walking around; one of them was climbing up the wall. One runs straight down the hallway, and the other turns—and then as I was watching, I start recording—and [it] runs down the hallway and then comes running at me, and I thought it was gonna attack me, and I was really scared; [luckily] it did not.”

Working in tandem, campus police officer Mike Reilly confined one raccoon inside the legs of a stool while associate principal Andy Baxa kicked the door open so Reilly could nudge the raccoon out of the building. (Dave Winter)

Associate principal Andy Baxa and campus officer Mike Reilly were able to corner one of the raccoons at the far end of the journalism/history hallway right off the main hallway near the office, and by 10:20 a.m., Reilly was able to contain the animal inside the legs of a stool and coax it out the door after Baxa kicked it open. As for the second invader, it scurried into Camille Nix’s room in the university hallway, startling the handful of students inside the classroom, among them senior Thea Cahoon, who was caught completely off-guard.

This school’s like a sponge; there’s holes everywhere. There’s squirrels and rats and other things; it’s a 70-year-old building.

— campus safety monitor Bob Bedard

“I thought that someone’s cat had gotten in for some reason,” Cahoon said, “but as I see it running around the classroom, I realize it’s a raccoon. It ran under my chair into the back corner of the classroom and everyone was screaming and stood on their chairs. It kept running and ran into [Nix’s] little office, and we were all sitting there, screaming.”

The room was subsequently evacuated, and Cahoon and her classmates were forced to take refuge in the library while several faculty members assembled to coax the raccoon out using a trashcan and other repurposed items. Witnesses said the raccoon proceeded to hide under a desk and urinate on the floor until it was coaxed into entering the trash can and subsequently was released outside once again by Reilly.

Thirty minutes later, Reilly and Baxa were called to respond to another incident, this time in Room 113, where yet another raccoon entered a classroom, falling from the ceiling and once again striking fear into the hearts of advisory students. It ascended up the blinds, left blood on the walls and ran into a separate corner before escaping through an absent ceiling tile above it.

An unwelcome visitor makes its way into Camille Nix’s College and Career Center. (Sydney Dawkins)

For those keeping count, that makes three raccoon appearances in under an hour. In fact, they almost fit into a 30-minute span. Not to mention that two of them managed to tarnish rooms with their unhygienic bodily fluids.

I think the ones that we saw today were grown-up raccoons that grew up at McCallum. They’re true McCallum raccoons.

— Bedard

Bedard, of course, is not confident in the permanence of the raccoons’ exile.

“Honestly, they’re probably gonna be back in tonight,” Bedard said, “because this school’s like a sponge; there’s holes everywhere. There’s squirrels and rats and other things; it’s a 70-year-old building.”

While this series of events does not inspire confidence in the campus’s integrity or cleanliness, the head of security does offer a bit of interesting lore that may explain the origins of these little tormentors.

“During the pandemic, there was this crippled raccoon, its front paw was crippled,” Bedard said. “And it had babies. It had four babies to begin with and then three, but I think the ones that we saw today were grown-up raccoons that grew up at McCallum. They’re true McCallum raccoons.”

Be sure to follow MacJournalism for even more exciting, whimsical and hopefully harmless zoological adventures.

The displaced ceiling tile shows the entry point where the third raccoon descended into Ashley Friedman’s social studies classroom during advisory. Unlike its co-invaders this raccoon avoided capture and scurried back from whence it came. (Noah Braun.)
Officer Reilly was able to apprehend and release two of the raccoons, the second in this pair of trashcans. The third onw, however, eluded capture. (Morgan Eye.)

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on April 26, 2023.

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