August 20, 2014
Raccoons in Toronto
I've found it upsetting with the recent news posts about Rob Ford and his rants about Raccoons in Toronto. How is this a top story, and for 2 days in a row? I've yet to skim the news today and see if Rob Ford saw yet another Raccoon last night in his wanderings about his property. Here are some links to 680 news on this... Monday and Tuesday
I will not make this a personal attack on the man but seriously, take into consideration where he and his family live, backing onto park space, the Humber River flows a stone's throw beyond that, and they are within a very short walk to James Gardens and Lambton Woods (two parks I hold dear to my heart through the winter months). Rob Ford is almost our neighbour, I can be at his house within a 3 minute drive. If he and his family have such a huge fear of Raccoons, perhaps they should move?
He states there is a huge increase in Raccoon populations here in Toronto but doesn't have much in way of facts to back that up. Perhaps he watched "Raccoon Nation" which says Toronto has the highest Raccoon population in North America. I will have to ask him the next time I run into him at our local Tim Hortons.
If you open the Tuesday link above, you will see the city does not track wildlife, and there is no way to tell how well any species is doing. Nathalie from Toronto Wildlife offered a different opinion on the status of Raccoon in our city. But really, nobody knows for certain.
And with all wildlife, there are good breeding years and there are bad breeding years. This summer we have two families scurrying around at night, a mom and 4 kids, and another mom with 3 kids. For where we live, I think this is about average. Of course there are some straggling lone Raccoons which I suspect are the males who have nothing to do with the family order after mating.
Raccoons are clever creatures and have adapted well to living amongst us here in Toronto. Our green bins are a buffet to them. It blows my mind how many people put their bins out on Tuesday night (Wednesday is pick up day) and are enraged that some creature came along, dumped their bin in the middle of the night and helped themselves to the mass of food waste within. The nerve of those things!
We never put ours out before the morning of pick up. We don't have a garage or any inside place to store it, so the bin sits out on our front porch. We use an old car battery on top and see the signs of them coming around, trying to get in, the bag ends sticking out are shredded but the bin is never spilled. Is this a mind set of humans, a habit that goes back generations, and they just cannot change it? Our fathers and grandfathers put the garbage out the night before, it's even in the cartoons we watched as kids. Heaven forbid having to get the bin out to the curb at 7am when one doesn't normally wake up till 8. I guess we are fortunate that the truck doesn't hit our street until well into the afternoon.
With all the Raccoons I see around our neighbourhood, they all have different personalities. Some are bold, some are skittish and some go either way depending on my approach. I've never EVER in all my life have come across an aggressive Raccoon. I guess the worst one was an injured one I trapped late one night last December, see the story here. That poor guy had every right to be pissed off at me. The family with the four kids, have two of each of these very different personalities. Two high tail it quick upon first sight of us, and the other two are very curious (I don't call them bold as they are just young).
It is my belief that when you show respect, respect will come back to you, even with the wild ones. Don't fuck with them and they won't fuck with you. If you yell and try to hit them with a broom or some other object, of course you will see a side of them that Rob Ford's nightmares are made of.
We live in our homes, but the outdoors is theirs. They use our walks, our gardens, our driveways in their evening searches for food and water. They sleep in our trees. Once again, if this kind of stuff bothers a person, then maybe they should move into an apartment building. It's unfair to label them as threats when they are on our properties and taking advantage of what we provide for them, like it or not.
A few of our neighbours grow grapes every summer. The Raccoons love grapes and know exactly when those things are ready to eat. It pisses these people off that they come in the middle of the night, pick away at their bounty of fruit, eating only the insides of the grapes and leaving the skins. The one guy gave up after a few years and tore out all his grape vines. The other guy would sit up most of the night, sometimes till 4 or 5am, waiting for the Raccoons to come, and he'd have a stick or a broom. But the Raccoon is the smarter beast, watching in the darkness, waiting patiently, because it knew the man was not a creature of the night, and eventually he would tire and go to sleep. It was always the case, the guy would eventually shut out the back light, go inside, to bed. A few hours later he would come outside to the mess and be enraged at the masked bandits. Both these men are dead now. The wife of the later still lives in that house and still grows grapes. She carries the tradition of trying to fight these monsters and shares the hatred of them only because they eat her grapes. There are days where I am not proud to say "I'm human, just like them".
I love the creatures as I do all wildlife. But that doesn't mean I biased in my blog here. People just need to be smart about things. Protect your green bins, as I said, it's a buffet to them. Inspect your homes periodically for wear and tear which something like a Raccoon, Squirrel, Opossum, etc may see as potential shelter and a place to raise a family. One cannot get upset if they grow fruits and vegetables, which may be natural food sources to the wildlife around, and the stuff gets eaten.
We have bird feeders and some come out to clean up under the feeders at night. They also love the bird baths and basins during the dog days of summer. Water is harder for creatures to find than food. We enjoy seeing them play in the baths, if we are lucky enough to spot them at dusk or dawn.
This young one took a cedar chip from my garden. Oh my goodness, the horror! Bad Raccoon! LoL!
Some say Raccoons are changing and not becoming true nocturnal creatures. I disagree. In my experiences, for the most part they are still creatures of the night. I do find for a short spell in the summer when I will see families out and about, mom and the kids. I'm guessing this is in the days after all the kids finally leave the "den" (where they were born), mom isn't nursing them as much, and they are trying to find food to feed a family of 4 or 5 now instead of just mom. But as I said, this is just my guess. It's what I see around here for not much more than a couple weeks, families out before sun set, or still up after sun rise. A few of these shared photos of mine are from the longest days of the year, where I was fortunate enough to see these creatures around 6am. I had the ISO cranked on my camera to get the shots, which may seem like mid-day.
We seem to have an exception to this in a small lone Raccoon we named "Annie". She seems to come out a little earlier than the others, or is up after the others have turned in for the day. She's only been around for a few weeks and we can only guess that maybe she's an orphan? She can't tell us so we can only assume. She gets out looking for food and water before the others get to it first. Or she's still out looking for it after they've gone to bed. Her size is comparable to the young ones that we see following mom still.
Annie may come off as bold but I think it's more about how hungry she is. There are times when I'm filling the feeders and she's hanging around, waiting to spot stuff being spilled as not every peanut makes it into the ring. And there are times she's running off quick at the slightest movement from us or something else nearby. We don't hand feed her or wave peanuts at her to entice her. But she knows where the food is and at times can be seen in the garden beneath our feeder pole (the feeders are 12 ft or so above ground with a metal umbrella on the pole to keep Squirrels and Raccoons from getting at the feeders). We don't chase her, we don't yell and throw things at her. We just sit back and enjoy the sight of her if she hangs around for a bit. I don't see anything wrong with that.
Here is a video of Annie from last Saturday. I couldn't sleep and decided to fill the bird feeders and baths before Angie got up. It was around 6am. Annie snuck up on the picnic table while I was doing the baths and knocked my seed cup over. I figured "finders keepers" and let her have at it. I had our little Canon Power Shot camera in my pocket and took this short video. The camera has great zoom and I was not in her face. I hate that I feel I should spell everything out here loud and clear. Ugh! Anyways, click here if you would like to see little orphan Annie.
And for the record, we don't see her every day/night. Sometimes 3 or 4 days pass before the next visit during our waking hours. She knows there can be food found here but she is not reliant upon us. As with the other Raccoons, she is smart and an opportunist. She's figured this all out on her own at a very young age and I suspect she will have a good long life for a Raccoon in our area.
So, I ask that those with this fear of these creatures coming around their homes to sit back and think for a moment, maybe they do a better job at critter proofing their homes, maybe they can learn to live with these wild creatures in their areas? The city is full of all kinds of wildlife, it's not just us humans and that's it. I'd like to believe most of us would like to keep it that way too!