A months-long investigation into “raccoon-resistant” green bins. Defiantly eating bread in front of a frustrated homeowner. Shutting down part of a subway line for nearly 20 minutes.
Toronto has an endless fascination with raccoons, and here’s just a few times they made the headlines in the Star in 2018:
Are raccoons getting smarter?
The Star’s Amy Dempsey conducted a months-long investigation into the behaviour of raccoons in the laneway by her East York home. This year, the city of Toronto rolled out its last “raccoon-resistant” green bins, with a turning-lock mechanism meant to be simple for human hands and impossible for raccoon ones.
But after a video hit the internet in April showing a raccoon breaking into a green bin in less than 30 seconds, and when the bins in her neighbourhood began to get raided in the summer, Dempsey decided to get to the bottom of it.
With the aid of raccoon expert Suzanne MacDonald, Dempsey set up cameras in the alley beside her house to catch the raccoons in action.
On one fateful overnight in August, Dempsey’s motion-sensing camera recorded a mama raccoon successfully yanking the lock on the top of a green bin until it popped open. It took her nine seconds.
Were those specific bins simply broken, or was there a design flaw? Dempsey ordered a brand new green bin and two chickens. Three nights in, a raccoon followed a bait trail of chicken skin to the bin, yanked the bin onto its side, and popped it open in one confident spin of its paws.
City officials still maintained that the lid, or parts inside it, were loosened. But not everyone agreed.
“Holy cow!” MacDonald said upon hearing the news. “You have a genius raccoon! I am so pleased for you. That’s awesome.”
The bread-eating bandit
If a raccoon broke into your house, what would you do? For Toronto resident Jenny Serwylo, that hypothetical became her reality. One September evening, Serwylo was awoken by loud noises from her kitchen — and discovered three raccoons looking for their next meal.
Acting quickly, she was able to shoo away two with a broom, but the third continued about its day. At one point, it scarfed down her English muffins, defiantly staring at her from behind a toaster oven.
Serwylo called 311, hoping for some advice from the city. She was told to find a 24-hour wildlife removal company, but was unable to get through to anyone. The 30-minute standoff ended, with the critter having eaten literally all of her bread, when it finally left through the window.
Not to be deterred, the group spent the next two hours scratching to get back inside.
What would Winnie-The-Pooh do?
Some may call it the new high fashion, others call it a lame attempt at getting dinner. Whatever it was, one Toronto raccoon — initially mistaken for an opossum — got its head stuck in a jar back in early April.
After a woman walking her dog discovered the animal in Scarborough, the city’s rescue team got involved and carefully removed the jar from its head (and luckily, avoided getting bitten by the distraught creature).
A nice bath and five days later, its was released back into the wild, or whatever you call urban Toronto.
There was at least another time when the same thing happened. At the beginning of August, a baby raccoon, perched high on a tree branch, had its head stuck in a jar of peanut butter.
The Toronto Wildlife Centre quickly got to work. A team member set up a ladder and climbed to where the critter was and tossed it into a catching net. Safely on the ground, the team gently pulled the jar off the raccoon’s head.
It was taken to the wildlife centre to treat a minor injury on her neck. After some food and some TLC, it was released back into the wild.
Ryerson is a great place to nap
On a quiet Wednesday morning in May, one critter decided the great urban outdoors were too trash for its lifestyle, and decided to take refuge inside Ryerson University’s Recreation and Athletic Centre — specifically, on a sign above a doorway.
The little fella was asleep for hours, forcing the closure of the entrance until it woke from its deep slumber to go about its raccoon life, looking for the next best breakfast.
They’re just like us!
In early November, a raccoon was spotted trying to leave St. Clair station. One Reddit user noticed the creature trying to open a glass door, but when that move failed, went on an escalator going up with the intention of going down. Honestly, who among us hasn’t had that moment in one way or another?
Later the same month, northbound trains on line 1 from Eglinton to Finch were delayed on Nov. 20 for roughly 15 minutes after a raccoon was spotted walking at track level.
Perhaps the same raccoon caused another headache later in the day when a critter was once again spotted walking at track level, forcing southbound trains to be delayed for up to 15 minutes from Rosedale to Union.
Trash pandas can’t talk, but if they could, they would probably complain about delays and high fares like the rest of us Torontonians.
With files from Alexandra Jones
Ilya Bañares is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ilyaoverseas