Oak Park Resident Tory Patrick said she's been unable, so far, to get a picture of the raccoon that's been frequenting her backyard for the last two weeks. Patrick was surprised to learn that the village has temporarily suspended its nuisance wildlife trapping program.

Spring is here and with it comes the return of wild critters in Oak Park.

But residents are quickly learning that they’re on their own in figuring out how to get rid of the pesky rodents.

Tory Patrick, of the 700 block of Clinton Avenue, tells Wednesday Journal that the she’s afraid to take the trash out at night because of the “rather large raccoon” that’s been frequenting her backyard for the last two weeks.

“I refuse to take the garbage out at night,” she said.

Patrick said she’s not only worried for her own safety, but that of the six other small creatures in her household – four small children and two dogs.

Patrick began searching for a way to deal with the nocturnal visitor, when she came across the village of Oak Park’s nuisance wildlife trapping program. That service allows residents to pick up a trap for a small deposit, and once the animal is caught, the village’s animal control officer will come pick it up.

And that’s the problem, Patrick said.

She was recently informed that the program has been suspended since Dec. 7, because of a temporary vacancy in the animal control officer position.

Michael Charley, interim health director for the village, told Patrick in an email that the traps are not available for lease because there’s no one to pick them up. Charley said in a telephone interview with Wednesday Journal that only a trained professional can dispose of the traps once they’ve caught a varmint.

Charley told Patrick in an email that “there is no timeline on the animal control officer’s return date, so I cannot provide you with a specific date at this time” for when the traps will become available.

He directed her to the website for Living with Wildlife in Illinois [http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife], which provides a list of nuisance wildlife control operators able to trap and remove the raccoon. Residents with a critter crisis also can contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources district wildlife biologist and find out whether she’s eligible for a permit to trap the raccoon herself.

Patrick said she also got a number for a “critter person” from her neighbor to remove the raccoon, but that could set her back as much as $200, she said.

“I thought that’s what my tax dollars are for,” she said.

Meanwhile, Patrick also is worried about so-called zombie raccoons, which were highlighted in a recent CBS Chicago news story. The zonked out raccoons suffer from canine distemper, according to the CBS article.

Charley reiterated in a telephone interview that the program is only temporarily suspended. He said the village loaned out the traps – four large traps for raccoons, possums and cats; four small traps, primarily for squirrels; two chipmunk traps; and one skunk trap – a total of 49 times in 2015. The deposit for the traps run between $50 and $75, Charley said.

“We still have every intention of starting that program back up,” Charley said.

Village spokesman David Powers could not immediately be reached for comment.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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