Friday, June 3, 2011

wild nights in the city

During my nights of delivering newspapers, I often count things to keep myself alert and amused. Like counting driveways (which is useful for remembering which houses to deliver to) or how many rabbits were running around (which is considerably less useful).  It was winter, February as I recall, about 10 years ago, and I was mindlessly counting, and being slightly annoyed by the number of willow twig deer that graced so many of the front yards of this particular neighbourhood. I don't know why this annoyed me, but it did. Suddenly, as I passed the first three deer, I was aware that the other three deer had ever so casually turned their faces and eyes to gaze on mine. I stopped in my tracks and gazed back. It was a surreal moment that felt like it lasted half an hour, but was probably more like half a minute. Then, suddenly, in that instinctual way that animals do, they all turned as one and ambled away through the gap between the houses into the back yard. I was entranced. And I wondered if I would encounter them again. I did.  I was zooming around the corner when my headlight shone on a family of five deer standing in the middle of the road. I was ever so glad I had good snow tires and quick reflexes.

Rabbits are the most numerous of the animals I encounter - one night I counted 14 in one yard - and skunks are by far the most threatening, with the worst night trying to avoid 12. (I know, this counting stuff is all meaningless to you...) I have met up with several local wildlife and each time I find it a little exhilarating to see them in such a big urban area. Well, okay, that's maybe not exactly true. I do hate Tuesdays as that is garbage night and people still insist on putting their bags of garbage and their blue boxes with unwashed tins and jars out on the curb the night before pick up, which means it gets strewn halfway across the road and the yard by the raccoons and skunks. I have had my garden turned upside down and emptied by rabbits. I have had raccoons in my attic, skunks under the porch and squirrels tearing the screen to get into my kitchen. I have also been kept awake by the scratching and scrabbling of wildlife, not to mention the high pitched screeching of the mating and fighting of the raccoons.

But, never in  a million years would it occur to me bash a family of raccoons with a shovel as one man in Toronto has recently been arrested for doing. As meddlesome and annoying as these creatures can be, I also have a healthy admiration for their (and other wildlife, but especially raccoons) ability to adapt to urban living. City dwellers seem to be viciously divided on their relationship with wildlife living among them. (read some of the hundreds of comments on the linked article, if you have any doubts!) Some people hate them and others seem to find it fun to attract them by feeding them (as if these wild animals had no skills of their own). So, on the one hand we push certain animals, like deer away by invading their natural habitat and on the other we attract some, like raccoons, by leaving food and garbage for them to feast on, thus increasing their lifespan and their waistlines.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. If I would check my spelling FIRST, I would not have to delete!

    I said, "Love raccoons, especially barbequed."

    Hope my spelling is correct this time.

  3. I can imagine that wildlife in urban areas can become problematic, but I wouldn't hate any animal enough to bash its head in. We do have to share the world with less desirable inhabitants even if we don't like it.

  4. Nora: I know. if they are that much of a pest in your garden... then just stop gardening until you can figure out a way to keep them away.

  5. We move into their areas and then complain about their presence. Sigh!! So mindless

  6. SueAnn: well, to be fair, we didn't really displace the raccoons and they have moved into urban areas because of the overabundance of foods. Toronto has a lot of ravines and is considered one of the most densely raccoon populated cities around. They have increased a hundredfold in the past decade or so. Still.....

  7. I have nothing against racoons; good thing too because living right next to Mount Royal in Montreal we get a lot of them wandering around.

    Now, as you mentioned, if people would just stop putting their garbage out in the alley the evening before garbage pick up, it would help immensely. As far as I'm concerned any head bashing should be done on those morons - especially the one whose house is just across the alley from ours, since I end up picking up up the garbage in the alley. I think next time I'll chuck it back into his yard.

    - Jazz

  8. Jazz: I know, I wonder if people are just lazy and figure the garbage men will clean it up. note: they don't!

  9. There are folks whose first reaction to any wild creature is to kill it. I don't get that.


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