People, not raccoons, are the problem in Toronto, city report finds
Committee votes in favour of educational programs, but the goodwill does not extend to mice and rats.
May 25, 2015
By David Rider
It’s official - humans are the problem, not the raccoons knocking over their green bins and lurking under their decks.
Toronto’s licensing and standards committee on Monday approved a city staff report that concludes the focus should be on “human behavioural contributors to urban wildlife issues,” rather than critter control.
Potential curbs could include a ban on feeding pigeons in city parks.
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, an avowed animal lover, said homeowners need to learn that the “buffet” they create in their yards with compost piles, bird feeders and unsecured green bins will attract wildlife, even the unwanted species.
“The raccoons are very smart,” he said.
On his Scarborough street, if they don’t find the lasagna tossed into the green bin tasty enough, the picky beasts will simply move along and knock over a different bin to dine on shepherd’s pie.
People ask for trouble in other ways, De Baeremaeker said. A stack of rocks in a backyard serve as a “rat condo” - the rocks absorb heat during the day and radiate at night, keeping the rodents toasty.
“Prevention is better than cure and I think, for all of these issues, we can help people and wildlife minimize conflicts,” he said.
For the very thorough report, the city commissioned an Ipsos-Reid poll on what animals Torontonians are encountering and their problems with them.
Unsurprisingly, “the biggest wildlife issue for Torontonians is the mess created when raccoons get into garbage” - a problem that Mayor John Tory has promised will be at least somewhat addressed with a new raccoon-proof green bin.
“Squirrels followed by raccoons and skunks are the most common animal encountered on personal property and in parks,” the poll said. “Not surprisingly, those who feed wildlife in the city are much more likely to encounter wildlife at home or on their property.”
Three-quarters of residents agree there are too many raccoons but most also think we need to learn how to coexist with urban wildlife.
There is no reliable raccoon census for Toronto, but research from the late 1980s pegged their ranks at 7 to 12 animals per square kilometre in the city, reaching as high as 100 per square kilometre in some neighbourhoods.
The licensing committee’s goodwill does not extend to rats and mice.
“I’m not sure I’d want to save their lives,” said Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. “I think my constituents would want to get rid of them as quick as they see them and quite frankly so do I.”
Council will have final say on the recommendations to improve city educational materials and efforts and to explore the feasibility of a bylaw prohibiting Torontonians from feeding wildlife on private property.
Committee members also want full council to have options to extend funding in the 2016 budget to the cash-strapped Toronto Wildlife Centre, which picks up much of the city’s slack in human-animal interactions.
The committee’s chair, Councillor Cesar Palacio, added a successful motion for city staff to consider the feasibility of a bylaw to ban “the feeding of pigeons in public spaces in Toronto.”
Mammoliti warned, however, that his previous efforts to push for a pigeon park feeding ban have been ruled out of order.
De Baeremaeker chimed in: “The pigeon lobby is vicious.”