OMG! There are raccoons on Huey P. Long Avenue. Those cute little fuzzy creatures with bushy tails and a black mask of fur that covers their eye area are causing havoc for some residents who don’t appreciate their cuteness.

The most affected so far are the owners of Salon Elle’, an upscale beauty salon located at 525 Huey P. Long Ave. The building was once a home built in the early 1900s that was beautifully renovated in 2015.  

The salon, with its original wood floors, fireplaces, tall doors with transom doors and crystal chandeliers was designed to pamper Gretna’s ladies. The tall attic of this lovely place was the birthplace of a nest or “kits” of raccoons! Really!?!                                                                            

Three of the raccoon’s most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws, its facial mask, and its ringed tail. Sometimes called the common raccoon, it is a medium-sized mammal native to North America.

About as big as small dogs, common raccoons grow to 16 to 28 inches and weigh 11 to 57 pounds. Its grayish coat mostly consists of dense underfur that insulates it against cold weather. It is usually nocturnal and omnivorous.

Raccoons are very adaptable and have extended their habitats to urban areas. They can be vicious when approached by humans. Humans should be particularly cautious of approaching raccoons because they are common carriers of rabies, roundworms and leptospirosis, according to The Human Society. Most experts do not recommend having a raccoon as a pet. 

After about a 65 day gestation period, two to five young, known as “kits,” are born in the Spring. Their life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years, much too long for the Gretna residents who have been affected by them.

Brandi Landry, Salon Elle’ owner, was the first in the neighborhood to experience the raccoon nightmare. “Three or four years ago, we started with an issue of fleas in the bathroom in the back of the house. With no pets around, it was strange to have these unexplained fleas. During those times, we had several different exterminators come out and spray. We came to realize that we were witnessing a flea problem every spring.

“Our friend, Danny Bowen with Edgewood Exterminating loves solving problems and he really looked into the situation. After spraying chemicals and filling crevices with foam, he discovered evidence that there were raccoons living under the house. He sprayed and filled ceiling cracks and any spot that any creatures could possibly get in,” Brandi said.  

“Then by the next springtime, we had insulation spray foam applied under the house. We then noticed we quit having the flea issue. So, we thought we were in the clear. We live in St. Bernard and aren’t at the salon except for work hours and had never witnessed any other signs of creature activity there.

“Two of our male stylists smoke. In the spring of 2020, when outside smoking, they saw a raccoon in the backyard. They said it was foaming at the mouth, lethargic, not moving. We didn’t know if it was rabid or had eaten poison. We called animal control and they came out and picked up the animal.

“In the last week of April in 2021, we heard noise in the attic and realized we had a problem. It was a lot of noise like a person up there.

They roamed around, sounded human. One fell into the air return vent which is in a closet in the salon. When one of our stylists opened the closet door, he saw one of the babies and picked it up. The mother had a seriously loud reaction to him holding the baby. He carefully put the baby raccoon back in the A/C closet. The exterminators later told him that was the best thing he could have done. This was a week ago.

“I called exterminators and couldn’t get someone to come out right away. A lot of exterminators don’t want to deal with raccoon problems.  I posted on Facebook for help. I needed this solved. One of our clients called a rescuer who traps raccoons and I was hopeful, but he never came.  

“I called Pied Piper Pest Control on Derbigny Street here in Gretna and they came the very next day. The attic is huge and he cleared the attic and could see evidence of where they had nested, but they were gone. He could see no damage, but he found a spot that had been loosened during a windstorm where the siding meets the roof. He left the hole open and set out traps in the attic, trying to catch the raccoon mom.

“After checking it for a week, he sealed up the hole, restricting the access. We learned that raccoons often relocate, but then later return to an earlier spot. It was a huge problem, beyond dealing with a regular pest. The raccoons are vicious. We could not have handled this alone. To solve the recent problem cost us almost $400, with future fees at $55 per visit if we have to call them back,” she said. “Although the attic was the exposed area, we have done everything possible to sanitize and make sure that the salon is clean, safe and a pleasure to visit.”

Melissa Jones, who lives next door to the salon, was not happy at all with the raccoon situation. Glad that they weren’t nesting in her garage or shed, she still was not happy with them skirting the fence and being in the yard. She called the Jefferson Parish Animal Control and was told that they couldn’t help.

“I called because the neighbors behind me have a young child who enjoys swinging on his swing set. I called City hall first to see if Gretna could help. I was referred to Jefferson Parish, using phone numbers supplied by Gretna. I called the animal control, but didn’t talk to a person. I left a message and also emailed that department. I never got a response by phone nor email. A call to another department reached a real person, but I was told that they would only come out to pick it up if the animal was dead or in a cage. I explained about the child, and that perhaps the raccoon was rabid, but I never heard from anyone else with the parish.

“Day number two, my back neighbor called, knowing  that I had contacted Jefferson Parish for help, he said that the raccoons were now in his shed on the fence line directly behind me. There had been a ladder leaning against the shed that the raccoons used to climb up on. He moved the ladder, trying to trap them in the shed.

I stood on my deck and saw the very large momma and three babies in the shed that had an exposed hole in the gable. The momma, mid-morning in broad daylight, stuck her head and part of her body through the hole and glaringly stared me down. There was froth around her mouth. But the parish lady had said they would only come out if the raccoon was trapped or dead! We were truly on our own! After a few hours, the raccoons literally jumped out of the shed. The father of the child set three traps, but hasn’t trapped any.

Her husband, Dennis Jones, set out a trap, using sardines as bait. That didn’t work well…the sardine can was found licked clean, but the trap had malfunctioned. A week later, and the trap is still set.

The salon folks and Joneses were not the only residents who were upset about the masked critters. Raccoons were seen on the fence of the corner house on Newton and 5th Streets. One of the babies, the size of a cat, startled yours truly when it ran across the driveway as I sat on my patio just four feet away.  

In fact, Neal Vaught who also lives in that corner house said, “I just saw a huge raccoon, must have been the daddy, running down Newton from the direction of the levee. It flattered itself to slide into the storm drain near the end of the 400 block of Newton.”

A raccoon was also seen lying on the peak of the roof of THB Nola Barbershop & Salon on the Huey, as well as in other locations. No one has seen the raccoons in almost a week, making neighbors wonder where they are now. Some people that are feeding stray cats are probably also feeding the raccoons, making things worse. Good advice to residents is to make sure that all cracks and crevices on your property are sealed up so you don’t end up with damage and the trouble of unexpected guests!