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MY LIFE OUTDOORS

This brazen gang is breaking into prison

March 02, 2004|John Bowers | Special to The Times

SIX BLACK-MASKED bandits are wreaking havoc along security fences at Terminal Island's federal correctional institution, disturbing the population confined there, although the commotion is warmly welcomed by most of the inhabitants.

The Clyde family of raccoons scurries along the beach, setting off motion sensors as they parade through the man-made underbrush of razor-wire and hurricane fencing.

When bells and whistles go off in security booths, prison officials must first determine if the raccoons are the cause, creating a minor thorn in the side of administrators.

The mother of the family, Bonnie, named by prisoners for the female half of the bank-robbing duo, escorts her five youngsters through drainpipes and between the rocks surrounding Terminal Island, located in the Los Angeles Harbor near Long Beach.

Her small kits chitter and chatter as they scurry behind her with their bushy, black-ringed tails twitching excitedly while they explore their new world. At times, they scale the fences, one by one, and waddle along the grounds of the prison's recreation fields.

As is their nature, they appear nocturnally and don't seem to be bothered by their close proximity to humans.

An environment designed to keep convicted criminals at bay seems to be a haven for the black-and-gray critters as they forage along the shoreline, turn over garbage cans and accept handouts from America's incarcerated wild-lifers.

Bonnie and the Clyde family of raccoons seem to be right at home.

John Bowers is serving a 46-month sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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