How the COVID-19 lockdown may change the behaviour of urban animals
This current situation, I think this is unprecedented for humans and it’s unprecedented for the animals as well. Our wildlife has many, many thousands of years of being cautious about humans and staying away,so it would be unlikely that they would change their habits in a few weeks or even a few months. But I do think they will – start gradually to explore. I think coyotes are hard to predict. They’re really sensitive and they really don’t want to run into you so they may get more bold in their hunting. I think you may see more raccoons out during the day and that will freak people out, it always does. Everyone thinks, oh it’s arabid raccoon because it’s out during the day. No, it’s just trying to get food, that’s all. So I think it may change the times of day that they may forageand it may change the range over which they forage. So they may not be shy about going across a fence or going across a roador coming off of a corridor that we know is safe. Car traffic is the one thing that keepsraccoons in a territory, so they won’t cross major roadsbecause if they do they get killed. And I can tell you, I’ve measured many many dead raccoons that have been hit by cars. Sixty-eight, and it’s a male too. One thing that’s dropped dramatically in thecities is the car trafficand when you remove that predator, those cars,then you’re gonna see a lot more movement in raccoons I think. So they’re going to increase their territory size,they’re going to explore new areasespecially since there won’t be the same dumpsters full of food behind the restaurantsthat perhaps there may have been previously. So they’re gonna go out on the hunt andthey’re gonna cross those roadsand they’re gonna end up meeting otherraccoons who are already there. So in my mind, in my imagination it’s like a little West Side Story with that raccoons coming across Bloorand meeting the other raccoons and you know it’s really a big musical number. But I don’t think in real life it is gonna be like that. Probably you’ll just end up hearing alot more raccoons fighting in your backyard becausethey will be coming on to each other’s territory and fighting over who gets to stay. But it’s important to note, my colleagues and I have studied animals in Africathat have been using well-worn paths for hundreds of yearsand when the environment changes, they continue to use those paths even though they don’t have tobecause it’s better safe than sorry. It’s better to use the places you know aresafe then to be go somewhere new and be killed. So there will be some animals whocontinue to do things they’ve always doneand then I would suspect some young ones, from you know, that are born this year, in a strange year like this,they may say, hey this is great, we can go everywhereand they may be in trouble when society moves back to having cars and peopleand everything goes back the way it was before. I think if people are seeing wild animals outespecially during the day when they’re not expecting them to be out there,treat them just the way you would any other human, just use physical distancing. I would suggest probably more than two metresand just back up and let them go on their way. But I always tell people, here’s my tip for raccoons. Raccoons do not like onions. I have learned this. So if you want to keep raccoons away from something, cut an onion in half and just rub it on a surface. And they do not like the smell of the onions. Everybody says use hot pepper. I don’t like that, it gets in their eyes. It’s not very good for them, it’s painful. But an onion is super cheap and they just wrinkle up their little noses and they’ll find some other place. They’ll go to your neighbours. So that’s the idea, just send them to your neighbours. Put onion all around the place and they’ll go next door.