The mayor has pledged to defeat the animals as some residents see them as scrappy heroes. But, like everyone else in Toronto, the raccoons are battling for space
Most Toronto residents have a raccoon story. They steal doughnuts. They ride the subway. They show up at baseball games and airport baggage carousels. They break into banks.
And, in Canadas biggest city, theyre getting more brazen.
Raccoons are just like people. Some are calm. Some are curious, said Derick McChesney, owner of a Toronto-based wildlife control company. And some are just vicious assholes.
One recent night, Jenny Serwylo awoke to the sound of rustling in her kitchen. Turning on the lights, she found three raccoons helping themselves to bread. Two scurried off, but one refused to budge, holding eye contact with her as it ate.
He wasnt very polite, but he wasnt aggressive. He was just a guy, looking for food. He was going to eat, no matter what, she said. Each time she poked a broom handle at the raccoon, it would grab it with its paws and yank.
The stalemate continued until the raccoon had had finished, said Serwylo. Then, he yawned, scratched his belly and just decided to walk out the window.
The break-in and the subsequent social media flurry it unleashed underscored the extent to which the tenacious bandits have become enmeshed in the citys culture.
The mayor has pledged to defeat them. Numerous businesses have adopted them for their logos. Some Torontonians see them as scrappy heroes, others as villainous thugs.
And over the years, the animals have come to symbolize the growing pains of a rapidly expanding city, where everyone battles for space.
As Torontonians, we go: Yeah, these are our people, said Suzanne MacDonald, a professor of animal behaviour, and the citys preeminent raccoon researcher. Theyre the animal we love to hate.
A popular shirt, which once boasted Toronto v Everybody a nod to the citys desire to punch above its weight has been supplanted by one that now reads Raccoons v Toronto.
For a creature that residents encounter daily, raccoons remain something of a mystery to science. Early naturalists thought they were related to bears. Theyre not. Many people believe they have opposable thumbs. They dont.
And, critically, no one knows how many are scurrying into sheds and attics across Toronto.
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