For Fox Sake…

Before heading for Canada, I had read all about the abundance of raccoons about the place; it was possible to get the distinct impression that the country was knee-deep in the things.

It was therefore slightly surprising not see a single raccoon for almost a year after arriving in country, despite looking for the things (living in a block of flats probably didn’t help the quest though).

The UK doesn’t have raccoons, but our nearest equivalent is the urban fox (Vulpes vulpes – the Red Fox); these things have become extremely comfortable around towns and cities in much the same way as raccoons.

During my last trip home, I managed a few decent sightings of the local resident foxes, that live somewhere beyond the end of my parents’ garden. Unlike many types of wildlife, high-level fieldcraft was not really needed – the things are remarkably relaxed around humans!

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This one has clearly had an eventful life thus far, as indicated by the fine collection of scars on its muzzle.

Much easier for me to find than Canada’s raccoons…!

Ew, raccoon?

Raccoon at dusk in Toronto

It seems that one easy way to distinguish between a real live Canadian (one of the wild ones) and a relative newcomer to the country is to look at how they react to raccoons: the newcomers tend to think that the raccoons are terribly cute and splendid, whilst the more established folk are more included to have a reaction that could be characterised as ‘yuk!’.

The main reason for the ‘yuk’ goes by the catchy name of Baylisascaris procyonis, or the raccoon roundworm; this can infect humans (it tends to be kids) who come into contact with raccoon faeces, whereupon they migrate to the brain and cause fairly serious damage.

Short version: don’t eat raccoon poo!

I still feel that raccoons are still rather splendid creatures though – I clearly haven’t been here long enough…!