SOUTH NATICK, MA—For the third time in as many weeks, South Natick's local raccoon population took the blame Monday for the actions of 37-year-old sales manager Louis O'Halloran.
"Goddamn raccoons," said neighbor Jim Tunney, 50, as he cleaned up the debris scattered across his yard the morning after O'Halloran accidentally sideswiped his garbage bins while trying to change radio stations in the car. "I had to buy these plastic cans because they wrecked my good aluminum ones last month. This is really starting to get out of hand."
The upending of Tunney's trash receptacles is only the most recent example of raccoons being held responsible for property damage actually caused by O'Halloran. This month alone the nocturnal creatures have been faulted for a hole O'Halloran's wife discovered in the wall of their garage—the result of a clumsily handled cinder block—and next-door neighbor Thomas Fallon's felled downspout, which was in fact brought down by O'Halloran's basketball after a poorly aimed jumpshot.
These incidents do not include the toppling of 64-year-old Linda Dagan's birdfeeder, which varying reports have blamed on red squirrels and teenagers.
"Those raccoons are smart little buggers, I'll give them that," said Pete Ulster, 46, whose home O'Halloran house-sat last August while Ulster was on vacation. "I still can't figure out how they got into my shed and knocked over all those paint cans. It took me a whole weekend just to clean it up."
"And they sure did a number on my flower pots," added Ulster, referring to the mess O'Halloran made as he fled in panic from the shed. "If I ever get my hands on those critters, I'll choke the life out of them."
Since adolescence, the lumbering and ungainly O'Halloran has been an unacknowledged source of calamity wherever he has lived, his awkward gaffes resulting in an unknown number of false accusations made against pets, the weather, and God.
Although he continues to wreak havoc, the 37-year-old remains free from suspicion, and has done little to assuage the anger those on his block feel toward the local raccoon population. He has only come close to defending the innocent mammals once, when a neighbor mentioned last month that she believed raccoons had destroyed her flower garden, and O'Halloran nervously replied, "Or dogs. Could've been dogs."
Though raccoons often become a nuisance in places where their habitat intersects with that of humans, Kate Yewell of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said the amount of destruction attributed to the species in O'Halloran's neighborhood was not realistic.
"The wild animal population in the area is relatively sparse, and if anything, the few raccoons there are beneficial to the local ecosystem," Yewell said. "Also, raccoons have rarely been known to knock down power lines with a poorly maneuvered backhoe, thereby causing a blackout that lasts for days."
Still, area residents continue to pin such catastrophes on the small mammals, with some even attempting to kill the suspected offenders.
"Good luck trying to catch those crafty bastards," said Orin Ditmus, whose prized cherry trees have been ravaged by O'Halloran for the past two summers. "I started putting traps out last June, but the only thing I ever caught was poor Louis [O'Halloran] from down the block."