Capitol ‘Coon Closes Cafeteria, Evades Capture

The cafeteria at the Legislative Plaza has been closed for the week because of damage inflicted by a raccoon — dubbed “Rocky” by some staffers — that has hiding out in the state capitol’s legislative office area now for a couple of weeks.
Andy Sher reports that “stealth, cunning and daring often are considered prized attributes in the political world,” but when it comes to nighttime raids on the cafeteria kitchen and tearing up tiles in the ceilings. Even if the raccoon is the official Tennessee state wild animal, thanks to a legislative enactment years ago.
“Due to the damage done to the kitchen by Mr. Raccoon, the cafeteria will be closed the rest of the week,” said a sign posted Tuesday.
The sign features a cartoon rendition of a grinning, bushy, ring-tailed animal with the characteristic mask of black fur around its eyes.
Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration, said employees with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are trying to capture the raccoon. So far the efforts to capture with baited live traps have failed.
“We want to be able to relocate this animal,” Ms. Ridley said.
Ridley said the animal appears to have been attracted to the first floor of the underground facility’s parking garage, where cafeteria food dumpsters are located. From there, Rocky apparently moved into the plaza through a series of ceiling ducts, she said.
“It scratches and makes all kinds of racket,” said legislative secretary Sharon Peters, gesturing toward the ceiling in the office suite where she works. “This isn’t like a little mouse skittering across. This is like ‘whompf.'”

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