Brooklyn Boro

Raccoons rack up a growing number of subway delays

November 20, 2019 Jose Martinez, THE CITY
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This story was originally published on Nov. 20 by THE CITY. 

A Saturday-night delay along the L line in Brooklyn marked the latest in a growing number of subway service disruptions pinned on raccoons, according to internal incident reports obtained by THE CITY.

“The culprit was determined to be a raccoon underneath the train,” @nyctsubway tweeted after the operator of a Canarsie-bound L reported striking an animal near Broadway Junction, activating the train’s emergency brakes.

It was, according to the reports, the 11th time this year a raccoon-subway encounter ended with a service snag.

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That’s up from five raccoon-related subway disruptions in 2018. In 2016, there only was a single report of raccoons affecting service, when a train operator said he let go of an N train’s master controller after being startled by three of the critters at the 18th Avenue station in Brooklyn.

Reports show that, since 2008, the bulk of the raccoon sightings have occurred at outdoor stations along the A, L and Q lines in Brooklyn and Queens.

“The raccoons are just out here chillin’, and people feed them cat food,” Willie Staton, 50, said near an entrance to the East 105 Street L train stop in Canarsie. “Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, but the raccoons are second in line.”

‘The raccoon escaped’

Raccoon incursions haven’t been limited to outdoor stations. In late March, 13 trains on the A, E, D and F lines were delayed when a large raccoon caused a train’s brakes to go into emergency near 34th Street – Herald Square.

Saturday’s raccoon run-in came two weeks after police officers failed to corral another of the furry creatures at the underground Nevins Street station in Downtown Brooklyn. An MTA report from the Nov. 2 incident details how trains on the No. 2 and 4 lines were held twice as cops on the tracks tried to snare the animal.

“The raccoon escaped,” @nyctsubway tweeted after 11 trains were delayed. “He/she is at large.”

Rabies reports grow

Overall, the city’s 311 system has logged 5,741 raccoon-related reports so far this year, pacing behind the 7,000 calls received in all of 2018.

But the number of raccoons testing positive for rabies is on the rise, city Health Department figures show. Some 20 rabid raccoons have been found so far this year — double the number from 2018 and five times the 2015 total.

A raccoon was spotted beneath the L train’s East 105th Street station in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Senator Roxanne Persaud’s Office

At a February state Senate budget hearing, Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D-Brooklyn) complained to MTA brass that raccoons were constantly on the tracks at the East 105th Street stop, despite efforts to wrangle them.

Several commuters told THE CITY that raccoons remain a fixture at the station, sometimes lurking near the entrance.

“I avoid East 105 and go to the station after,” said Curtis Whiteman, 36, of East New York. “I refuse to go onto the L train in that direction, especially at night.”

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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