Toronto: How to Handle a Raccoon Encounter at the Film Festival


The furry bandits have been roaming the city for years, and during the 10-day fest they come out in force. Warns a pest control expert, "They're not afraid of anything."

Even if you only spend time in Toronto for the film festival, chances are you've come in contact with one of the city's many nocturnal animals. No, we're not talking about the new Tom Ford film. We're talking about Procyon lotor, or the raccoon.

The city's epic battle with the so-called ring-tailed bandit has raged for years now. With an estimated 100 raccoons per square kilometer, nighttime encounters are frequent. As a result, city dwellers have developed a love-hate relationship with the critters, with some considering them a menace, others cute and harmless. (The former camp has a slight edge: A 2014 poll found 52 percent of Torontonians support euthanizing them.)

Omnivores who will eat just about anything, raccoons are frequently found foraging in garbage bins. With restaurant dumpsters full during the fest, raccoons should be out in force. So if you do come face-to-furry-face with one, Sherwin Baghani, operations manager at Toronto pest control firm SOS Wildlife Control, recommends simply walking away — slowly.

"You don't want to walk up and pet them like a dog or cat," he cautions. "Raccoons are wild animals." Other no-no's include making yourself appear larger (by waving your arms) and playing dead.

Baghani says the only reason the masked critters may charge you is if they're cornered or, more likely, have a canine distemper virus. But even in such a case, their behavior can be confusing, especially if you consider the cute factor.

Says Baghani, "One [virus] symptom is they're super-friendly — they're not afraid of anything." You've been warned. 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.