Dear Mayor Tory:
You say you are declaring war on "raccoon nation." I must say, Mr. Mayor, I am surprised.
We have much in common, your species and mine. We are good with our hands. We live by our wits. We will eat just about anything, even a cronut burger. And we thrive in cities.
You built this city. We moved in and made ourselves at home. Your comfortably insulated attics make superb dens for our mothers and their young. Your rooftops and fences have become our highways, allowing us to travel efficiently from place to place while avoiding your murderous roadways. Your discarded food, thoughtfully separated from other trash and placed outdoors where we can get it, is our daily buffet.
For us, it is all working out pretty well. You throw away perfectly good food. We eat it. It is the essence of Torontonian co-existence.
So I found it strange, Mr. Mayor, to hear you speak of us in such belligerent terms at City Hall this week, rolling out your new "raccoon-proof" green bins like so many plastic tanks.
"We are ready, we are armed and we are motivated to show that we cannot be defeated by these critters," you told the media. "Our job is to show them we are smarter." We will see about that.
True, the new bin is bigger and harder to knock over. Score one for you. It was childishly simple to upset those old bins and trip the ridiculous little latch. The elastic cords, belts and bricks you employed to keep us out merely provided a small challenge on the way to an excellent meal.
The new latch is a tougher nut to crack. Your engineers have made it too big for our small hands to turn (or so you say). The demonstration video you made shows my friends clambering over your bin without success then moving away as if they are giving up. Do not fool yourself, Mr. Mayor. This was merely the reconnaissance squad.
Even as I write, our best minds are working on the little problem you have posed for us. Not to give anything away, but your people have designed the bin to pop open when upended by garbage trucks to dump out the contents. Do not many bins sit on front and back porches? Do not these porches have stairs? Could not these bins fall down those stairs and turn upside down? Accidents do happen, Mr. Mayor. Our sumo wrestler's physique gives us the power to overturn objects many times our size.
If that does not work, there is always another way. I think you will find my species both ingenious and patient. Those small hands of ours, designed to feel for treats in muddy river bottoms, are as nimble as any safe-cracker's.
We have learned a lot since our forebears moved here from the quiet countryside generations ago. Our mothers spend the first year of our lives teaching us everything they know about outwitting you.
We have learned to scale drain pipes with the speed of a circus acrobat. We have learned how to squeeze through tiny spaces in the eaves of houses.
Above all, we have learned to overcome our fear of your kind. Why should we feel afraid when living among such gentle, helpless creatures?
Once, you drove us from your land with pitchforks and shovels and even killed us with firearms. Happily, you have evolved. Today's city folk are more likely to issue a sharp "shoo, go away," then retreat behind the screened door. The worst you do is pelt us with the occasional apple core. (Apple core! So delicious.)
Life in the city has made your species fat and lazy. Life in the city has made mine fat and smart. We are growing more cunning by the day. As your famous predecessor put it, we are getting "braver and braver." He got that right at least.
No wonder the learned scientist Dr. David Suzuki has called Toronto the raccoon capital of the world – our capital, not yours. In his show The Nature of Things, as much a flat-screen favourite in raccoon dens as it is in human ones, he notes that our population density here has grown to 50 times what it is in rural parts.
So be careful when you presume to declare war on us. We have no wish for such a conflict. But if it is war that you want, we will not shrink from the endeavour. We shall fight you in the lane ways. We shall fight you on the flat roofs. We shall fight with growing confidence from the garages to the garden sheds.
We are residents here now, not invaders. This is our hometown as much as yours. And we have something you lack: the lure of that soggy fish stick, that old brownie splashed with ketchup – the hunger to win. I think we all know who will come out ahead.
R. Raccoon for Raccoon Nation