Why does Toronto fear raccoons?

You only need to open up any of Toronto’s daily newspapers to see the reality facing the city: raccoons, organized and angry, are striking back against the residents who have for too long oppressed them.

At least, that’s the idea you get after reading the headlines and articles.

Is Toronto really under siege from raccoons?

The short answer is no. Not at all. Not in any way, shape or form.

Each of Toronto’s services that are in any way responsible for or have a relationship with wildlife have come out publicly and said there has been no increase in raccoon populations or significant change in raccoon behaviour.

So why is it that the media – and, of course, the ever-belligerent Mayor of the city – are talking so much about raccoons?

There’s a short answer to that, too: there’s not much else to talk about.

The awkward phase between summer winding down and school starting up is a dead zone in the world of journalists. Families across the country are finishing off their vacation days, planning out back-to-school responsibilities and generally not making news.

An election is pending in Ontario, but that, too, is on a bit of a back-burner until vacation time is up and people are back at work and in a daily routine.

So journalists do what they’re good at: find news. And when all else fails, every journalist has a few safe, fall-back stories. In Toronto, it has always been, and unfortunately will always be, Rob Ford. But a close second is the raccoons.

Due to the densely populated, urban design of the city, animals like raccoons (and squirrels, skunks, coyotes and various birds of prey) thrive; there is a great deal of food available (garbage), tons of great shelter (cars, backyards, decks, abandoned buildings and more) and a plethora of water (sewer system, drainage pipes, Lake Ontario and more). Everything an animal needs to stay healthy.

The reality for Torontonians is that raccoons will always be a part of their landscape. That won’t change, even if the city went on a mad kill-everything campaign, because it’s just too sweet a spot for wildlife.

What residents can do is make their own homes less attractive for wildlife by removing available attractants, using hard-sided and lockable garbage containers and remembering that raccoons aren’t pets to be fed or cuddled.

We can co-exist with wildlife, if we make the effort.

Image source: quickmeme.com

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