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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Angry raccoons ahead? Hacked Northwest Spokane road sign confuses and amuses

Northwest Spokane residents can breathe easily. A warning flashed to drivers Wednesday that angry raccoons had invaded the area near Audubon Park was only a mischievous prank.

An orange construction warning sign on Northwest Boulevard just before West Alice Avenue aimed at traffic headed southeast lit up with ”Angry Raccoons Ahead” during the Wednesday morning commute.

Mike Beggs, co-owner of Spokane Traffic Control, said the sign was hacked.

He was first alerted to the problem Wednesday morning and said the message was removed midmorning. In the nearly two decades Beggs has owned the business, a hack has never occurred.

“That’s the first time that’s happened that I can remember,” Beggs said. “Somebody had to know what they’re doing.”

The lock on the machine was twisted open, Beggs said. Then someone accessed the “brains” of the sign to change the message, he said.

Kirstin Davis, a spokesperson for the city of Spokane’s public works department, confirmed it was an issue with the lock that led to the sign’s message being changed. As of Wednesday afternoon, it was unclear who the vandal was, she said.

Beggs said he’s just thankful the message wasn’t something worse.

“We are fortunate that it wasn’t rated R,” Beggs said.

The city’s list of construction projects has warned that there would be utility work causing curb lanes to be closed along Northwest Boulevard Feb. 2 through March 2. Beggs said his company was contracted by the public works department to provide the signs.

A sign for northwest-bound traffic on Northwest Boulevard warns commuters of impending construction.

A group of teenagers pulled over and conducted an impromptu photo shoot in front of the raccoon message midmorning.

Mark Didier stopped and walked up to snap a picture, but struggled to capture the message with the lights. He wanted to send it to friends and family.

“And say, ‘Hey this is what we have in Spokane: angry raccoons,’ ” Didier said .

Employees at the nearby Little Garden Café said a few customers had mentioned the sign.

Audubon Park across the street is notorious for its large squirrel population, but café employees said they hadn’t heard anything about raccoons.