Whether you like it or not, Toronto is known for having the scrappy raccoon as its unofficial mascot, partially because you can spot them just about anywhere in the city.
Which is why it came as a surprise to me when I found out the Toronto Zoo has a special raccoon habitat and that people actually pay money to stare at the non-city running animals.
And because I’m a very curious person, I set out on a journey to figure out why exactly the zoo has a raccoon station and why people pay to see them when there’s probably a family living in the zoo’s parking lot.
First things first, the raccoons currently housed at the zoo are relatively new additions.
Litter mates Elora and Fergus were found “abandoned” near the zoo in 2008 and the third raccoon, Mirco was brought to the zoo by police after it was located with injuries.
So this exhibit was started to house the animals and take them in.
Their special zoo habitat is aimed to “mimic their natural environment” – despite Toronto having thousands of these stripey animals, city scapes are not their natural environment.
Raccoon’s natural habitats are more along the lines of swamps, floodplain forests, marshes and farmland, according to Hinterland Who’s Who.
They only flourish in North American cities because they are highly adaptable.
Since the Toronto Zoo is also a tourist destination, many international tourists have never seen a trash panda before, so it’s important to include them.
“Raccoons are such unique animals and we want to make sure they are a part of our Canadian Domain to educate those who may be visiting outside of Canada,” said a zoo spokesperson.
Seeing as a bunch of raccoons have been dropping dead recently, maybe it’s smart to keep a couple housed in the zoo.
And there you have it, the raccoon habitat was started to house injured animals.
If you do happen to find an injured raccoon, please don’t bring it to the zoo. Contact the Toronto Wildlife Centre instead.