After Toronto unveiled its "raccoon-resistant" compost bins in 2016, some people feared the animals would be starved, but many more celebrated the innovative design. Rolling out this novel locked bin opened a new battlefront in city's ongoing "war on raccoons."
Journalist Amy Dempsey was researching the bins and raccoon behavior when her reporting took an unexpected turn down her own garbage-strewn alleyway. Had local raccoons finally figured out how to defeat the greatest human effort in our “war” against their kind?
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible,
I'm roman Mars,
The city of Toronto has a special relationship with record, or at least may think they do. We are not the only
Did he with raccoons, but we often act like we. Are we like to think Toronto is the rock?
capital of the world.
Strangely proud of that distinction.
But we really have no data to back it up. This is
me Dempsey Rapporteur for that
do we have more raccoons than say Chicago or Vancouver? While we do
actually now you can't count urban raccoons they're all over the place but whom
its data, when you can feel it in your heart. A few.
Years ago, when a raccoon died on young street
Antonio, named him Conrad and built a vigil around his body with flowers and framed photo
So if science ever disproves this idea of Toronto
raccoon nation. I really fear for Toronto. I think we're gonna have an identity crisis patrol
this feelings about raccoons, not uncomplicated, our relationship with Russia,
this kind of love, hate relationship, we hate when
destroy our grass and break into our houses, and yes, there
break into our houses baby
worse than all. This, though, was the raccoons proclivity,
before getting into the compost which this
He started collecting for the residents in green bins several years ago from the prospect,
other raccoons, these compost bands
an incredible development and all you can eat parfait with the plastic and
their garbage already thoughtfully removed and their actions would go to town and our staff and spread it everywhere and you'd wake up.
Look at your window and oh shit and then maybe
would argue with your spouse or roommates about who'd have to clean it up. The green bins become a feast, a veritable feast for the wreck.
Wounds. This is Toronto, Mere John, Tory after years ago, dressed in a blue suit in front of a row of canadian flags, as if he's announcing a plan to step up the war on crime in an away again, he was probably nothing that represents more of a new.
Since in a big city like this than the feasting
The raccoons on the contents of the green bans and the war on raccoons
sort of started. With Mayor John Tory, we discovered that the members of recommendation are smart, their hungry and their determined, but our job together with our private sector reinterred,
response is to show them that we are smart. He said things we are ready. We are armed, we are mode,
We have left no stone unturned in our fight against nation,
The reason Muir Torre felt so prepared that day was the city was unveiling a new raccoon resistant green, been for organic waste,
During this thing press conference, the Mere held up with new, been victorious in handed up with reporters as cameras flashed motive. I would say it was seventy five percent tongue in cheek but there
also a hint of seriousness to it. It was pretty clear that he was confident
new green bins would solve our raccoon problems, confident enough to
stand in front of news cameras and say in feed
Not an option
but Amy was about to find out for herself whether defeat was an option and spoiler alert.
Option. Let's back up to us to bid
This all started the way. Most things start in cities within our F p Doc, PDF yeah. They put out a request for proposals, asked
for a new generation green been an emphasising that it had to be rodent, resistant, a k, a animal resistant, a k, a raccoon proof, please the company that one was called Rhetoric Pacific
Dennis monster with Very Pacific, and I serve as the environmental sales manager for Canada. If this
you have Toronto, wasn't a war with raccoons. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the general
charge of a major front, and he took his role very seriously. I mean reared Pacific, takes nuke,
development very, very seriously and there's a five pronged approach which
This is in many ways a classic sales guy. He wears.
With his company logo. He has a firm handshake. I found him to be extremely helpful and genuine, and when he speaks about the Green Ben, you can tell he's really proud.
That is something that I am very very passion about, not only being part of the design team, but
also residency neutron, or so I know what it is
to me as a resident reared Pacific and a number of design criteria, they were trying to meet with their green, been prototype. For example,
The bends would need to be picked up and dumped by an automatic arm that reached out from the truck
Ben would need a lid that closed and locked to protect against raccoons, but the law
It would also have to open up automatically when the ban was turned upside down and dumped into the truck by the arm. So we had to ensure that the law itself disengage
hundred percent of the time. The container must function in extreme weather conditions, surgeon Onyx easily opened with one single hand. We are looking at you know, safety kids end up in the darndest places. Definitely don't want them in organic seem tainer. But, more importantly, we don't want them locked inside the container, veal limitation of internal catch points. Any material that becomes trapped inside the container could pose a significant risk with respect to the exact her for the residents, but on top of the exact her and the mentally kids reared Pacific had to think
about enemy number one, the raccoons. Yes, so we worked with an urban raccoon specialists to basically understand raccoons likes dislikes,
dexterity. What they can and cannot do. It was a local raccoon specialist by the name of Suzanne Mcdonald's, I'm a
Suzanne Mcdonald, I'm a professor at York University. I study animal behavior, calling her a raccoon specialist, really downplays her accomplishments. She is a professor of biology and
psychology who has studied
just about every animal, you can think of
I have studied every animal, you can think open in Toronto. There's only one animal that matters in Toronto. Everybody tax about reckons. I work in
Cooper Lot and nobody talks about reckons there. There's reckons all the time. So she wasn't that surprised when we're Pacific got in touch as they were designing their ban and they asked me to talk to them about how raccoons work- and I did
While reckons are omnivores, so that means they can eat everything. Their mischievous raccoons have really good teeth. Bell. Use. Em
I dont want to use em, they want you to go away. You go away, grew more yard. They also get a taste for human food so once they,
get a taste for that Indian. Take out that we thrown out that they ve been joyed from then on. Like berries, I'm not eating barriers. We look at them. They look ass. If you would look at a monkey in the face, I look away by reckons. Don't they look right at us? They look right through us, you know they are pretty good sense of smell, they have pretty good vision, but touch is their superpower,
persistent, they will work and a problem for hours and hours and hours and their prey strong reared visit,
took all this information and applied it to their been design? There was
the wall, iterations of the design, there's multiple.
Photo realistic renderings in the end
They came out with a been they believed in it, an olive, green. Twenty,
scallon container, the wit, closes unlocks. We felt
very, very confident with the success of that locking mechanism and the
itself so the
new green- been roll out took about eighteen months from start to finish.
Who are waiting for their new green bends and people are getting real.
Excited about these things.
For they were rolled out on my stories. They were rolled out on some of the streets nearby, so people on my street would have
walk by and see that homes near us haven't.
Green been and we did in any it's it's
be thinking on your walk to the subway to go to work like the hell where where's my Ben.
But eventually Amy did get a bin of her own. So unless there is a dial like a handle, that u turn and when its envy horizontal possession it's open, when it's in the vertical position,
security. It's locked, you actually have to turn it in a way that really
If you dont, have a possible fans and, contrary to popular belief, raccoons, don't have opposed both arms, even though they can move the thumb like did it on their criminal
both arms, even though they can move the thumb like did it on their creepy hands little bit in any case,
RO. While everything seemed to be going according to plan infection
People were worried that the new bans,
working too well. In other words, people were afraid
without the green bins as food source. Maybe the raccoons were starving.
The way I became involved in all of this was that
January of twenty eighteen, a free
sent me a note saying that he believed the New Green Benz
eliminated the raccoon population in Toronto. He actually used
the word eliminate it. Isn't the intrepid reporter would do Amy decided to look into it. I wrote a quickie now
two Suzanne Mcdonald, our local raccoon expert and I said
raccoons, be dying. She just says they're, probably hiding from the cold, but she says
she would have more information a few months. She said after I measure more dead, raccoons so of course
go back immediately and said. Can I come
who would then come in and measure them in order to attract the health of the population from year to year, and I do this for times a year and when you go in July, it turns out and you bring out frozen, reckon carcasses and it takes a while
and when you go in July, it turns out and you bring out frozen raccoon carcasses and it takes a while to measure them. They start to melt. Oh dear God,
you can imagine the maggots in the
blood and all the things
that's fine! I mean this science we we pushed through,
Suzanne wouldn't have the result of her data for a while. But while Amy was there watching her measured dead raccoons, she asked her. Do you think it's?
possible. They could learn how to get into the new green bends and
she shook her head now. She said you know she'd filmed,
I'm trying and not one of them could do it. She just said they want. They won't get in the raccoons, won't break into the into these Green bends Rec room for freedom
I spent a lot of money on the rack prove green bins.
Was video that was put out yesterday's outcome.
A week later. This
Laurie comes out, and so look to your laughed. So
watches L into it here hold basically at a local.
China resident who has failed.
The video of a raccoon opening
His green ban give a little took. Every girl sums will now he's not gonna get in
like kind of winking at the clamour, almost really
this was not the only report of a ban being broken into, although it was the first to include video which quickly went viral. Much to the dismay of Dennis Monster from rhetoric, Pacific fur
somebody just to come out and say all the container doesn't work, you know is frustrating:
videos Dennis says: don't tell the whole story. A couple of break ins
doesn't mean the design is flawed. The screw might be loosen too much and if you just simply tight net a little bit, it might prevent the issue Dennis this frustrated by the fact.
Sometimes when people have issues with their green Ben's, they don't call the city, they dont report their issues to three one one. Instead, they sometimes call the local newspaper, and then it becomes a story
I think he said something to me. Like you know, when your car breaks down, you don't call the Toronto star. Do you call the mechanic? I don't know for some reason. You know Toronto
specifically that they Loveday glamorize raccoons the city for its part, plainly
full of break ins on user error and the cities response
to suggest that these homeowners want locking their bins. Proper
and to emphasise they had only a handful of complaints at a four hundred and fifty thousand Green Vince.
The suggestion being that if Joe in York full had a problem with his Ben the Navy, the problem was Joe and not the ban,
so soon. After
I woke up one morning and walked outside and saw that my neighbors green then was on the ground and our lame way, and there was food everywhere.
So I texted my neighbour and said the rat
have gotten into your green ban
She said you know what the: how can the raccoons get into the green vents now?
point. Aimee had been convinced by the city's argument. There was no
problem with the bans, the problem was the users I wrote back and
more likely that you didn't locket properly. I still have the text message and when I read it, I cringe a little bit like now. I dont think you locked it properly. Caroline,
Amy didn't get to stay smug for law, two nights later her own
then was plundered. My house,
then- and I gather group text message-
from Caroline directly
gotten into your green valley. At this point. On the floor, because my husband is a person who locks
Send checks locks like seven times it seemed the reporter had just become a character in her own story. I'm thinking like first of all
do they like this is so weird if they know that I was looking into this stuff. How am I being targeted, Amy called the city who said MA am
is you probably just have a broken handle and they send some workers out to fix. It
they replaced. The lid on my been as a precaution, even though they couldn't find anything wrong with it.
She also wrote to their raccoon expert Suzanne Mcdonald, who was thrilled because she's always secretly Ben
team raccoon. She wrote back almost immediately and said that is awesome.
And she said I'm good, I'm gonna to loan, you a trail camera and you have to see how they're doing it. So I get this
the camera from Suzanne. We made up
zoo one day I go to
oh grocery store and I get a couple of chickens put the chicken in the Green been rubbed. Some of the chicken Greece
all over the green been the first night records did not come
second night. I went out to the front porch. Actually, with my toddler, we picked around the corner
my daughter said: oh
then was down, was a mess. I took them
camera upstairs and press play on the video
that I captured its own
though the rack raccoons knew what I was doing and they were like. Let's give her a really good shot here. This one is gonna, go viral cameras pointing at the bends and then
the suddenness. This mama raccoon come skulking out and
He just pause the been down like and sheets.
So the way like at this point you can tell she knows what she's doing like she's not going to stand in the way and crushed by the ban. Now she's gonna pull it
the exact right angle and adjust falls down with like a thing,
and turned round and looks at the camera as if to say, watch this
and then she turns the handle and is open latest turns it. Yank opens it just like I was in they go.
The key thing to be knocking down the been which made the handle
much easier to turn when it's on the ground. You can just kind of pull on s like as, if you're playing a lever,
Now you can almost bad your paws added or or like pull it to the on August, thirtieth twenty routine Amy
published an article in the Toronto star with her video and as these
things tend to do in Toronto. It went viral.
Thousands of Toronto anyone's watched as the protagonist, handily pulled down the Bin and then flashing her
local people, saying that this was happening to them too, but the city maintained they were getting
Amy got a bunch of emails and comments on the article people saying this-
when Amy told then his monastery from rhetoric
Maintained they were getting real,
to be few complaints overall
when Amy told then his monastery from Rhetoric Pacific, but the raccoons. What
getting into the Bin that his company designed he decided
to pay her household. You know I personally one.
To go out there myself to inspect the content,
and to do some torque force testing on the handle itself. Some heroes, don't per capes. They were polar shirts with the company logo on the breast pocket.
The day Dennis came over my neighbour MIKE came over as soon as
saw the sky and my driveway working on the green then, but MIKE
no idea that this is
a green Van guy, it seem like there was a gang of of neighbours. I came up. All of us are not a nowhere and it was just like all. We
You know we have some some problems with with the raccoons getting into our bends. Getting into my band and canning in everybody's ban he's just ripping on the green bans and the waste of money Dennis, took it all like a chance,
he tightened up everyone's handles, so they be particularly hard for little reckoning pause to turn, but it hasn't solved the problem having accepted defeat.
Amy no keeps her bins tied to a wall, so raccoons cannot them over and she can't help but wonder how soon before this now
about how to open the men spreads to the rest of raccoon nation wreckers, doubt teach each other. These things,
called social learning and even most monkeys, don't do that, and so it's not like this innovation is gonna spread across this
the Mcdonald doesn't think most raccoons in Toronto currently have what it takes to get into the new queen compost bans that perfect combination of strength in town.
Dense and determination, Amy just tat,
to encounter in extra gifted one we collar. The genius reckon because I think it's amazing that she did it
Susan finally finished her dead raccoon study in Toronto
stable for enemy, is as bad as ever she thinks. That's me.
Does, even though most of them can't get into the compost.
Moved on to a different solution. The good old fashion garbage
I reckon, are not starving to death. That's for sure
But she doesn't rule out that for our future we might
creating an uber raccoon, one like Amy
that can get into just about anything. She studied Rick.
In cities, and they are, on the whole smarter.
Then their rural counterparts, urban raccoon.
Are constantly having new problems placed in front of them to solve, and they keep figuring them out
and Suzanne, and Denis both tell people that the green, dense, we're never advertised as reckon improve. Only
I can resistant, nothing is rising.
Proof. They say, which is
a small concession that, while the front of the mine is holding for now, the war against raccoons continues,
more raccoon news with our in house raccoon, correspondent, Kirkwall Stead. After this, we often don't think of winter as a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website, because your cooped up your thinking about being productive and now square space can help you do it with squares. Based can take your cool ideas, you ve creative content, your services, goods, and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks this, because there is to use template.
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If you listen to the show regularly, you know that Kirkwall said has a background in architecture, but you also read the articles on our side. You probably also now
then he's really into raccoons too. So when these two inches
in her site like say a raccoon going
on the internet for climbing up downtown Saint Paul office to our earlier this year. It was all over that story. Oh yeah instantly
No, no local news as they are covering the story on the scene in Minnesota, but I'm out here, you're researching the actual building that directly is crying. I got super into it as analyzing the facade of material. They started diagram and then deconstructing the route that this reckon took to the top. And so, if you want
like straight up Kennedy assassination style deconstruction of that whole saga. You can check on our website, but before get too far off track. Kurt is here today with a story of a different famous recognition from nearly a century ago. One that event
We regarded in a particularly famous work of american architecture, the White House. Oh yes, history is not exactly full of famous recommends, but there's this one in particular that really stands out, especially around thanks giving her name was Rebecca and nineteen. Twenty six. She was sent to President Calvin Coolidge as a gift from a constituent in Mississippi, but this reckon wasn't meant to be a pet. The idea was factually. That should be,
served up as part of a holiday peace which is not the most traditional thanks, giving real. No, I mean not today at least one a century ago. Wild animals were much more common to see on the dinner plates. Meals with darker turtle or possum were pre typical and in some cases, the Raven regional delicate
Cheese and then also YO, sending animals as food to the White House for Holidays was a pretty popular tradition. So the president getting sent a raccoon wasn't maybe that that odd, but him keeping him as a pet was out of the ordinary
Ray. I mean that's a little bit more unusual when we think about presents an thanks, giving we usually think of that Turkey pardoning tradition and that's about it, but for Coolidge it wasn't that weird. He and his wife had tons of pets. They have cats and dogs and birds, of course, but also these really exotic ones. Over the years they got wild bees and a bare pair of wine cubs, even a pygmy hippo. Most of these, as gifts, often from your foreign dignitaries, who knew that the college's were really into weird animals, but I'm still eminent, I'm picturing, like a pig me hippo running around the warehouse, perhaps some of them, they re gifted diseases that can actually take care of them and a home, but the colleges did keep a lot of them as pets and they form this kind of Weird Whitehouse Menagerie or, as one report called it D, pencil being you haven't used to, and so what about Rebecca the reckon well
She became part of the first family, essentially grace. The first lady would walk around on a leash during the day and then at night, she'd curl up of Calvin on his lap. Next, the fireplace it's pretty good, but will you I mean that's one side of it on the other side? Is that you
still a wild animal and she became carve infamous per year chewing her way out of her enclosures and she'd wriggle out of the collars. They put on her and should club the furniture in the White House, but as these stories of the secret service having a chase around while she runs up trees and yes
Oh, she was a bit of a handful too, but you know she got to hang out in the White House sometimes, and there s the time she got this little wooden house that they put up for her on the south.
So? This is a little bit of a hassle, but she seemed to have a pretty sweet life Rebecca the wrecking. Yes, she did she literally
cool just for a while and then the first couple headed off to a zoo, and there were rumours that the time that maybe Rebecca Bit Kelvin, because one day he came out with a bandage on his hand, but grace later wrote very fondly of this White House raccoon, according to her Rebecca quote, enjoyed nothing better than being placed in a bathtub with a little water in it and given a cake of soap with which to play in this fashion. She would amuse herself for an hour or more
so obviously, if nine I'm kind of fans have any more raccoon stories, they should at you and Twitter, because then the definite movements evidence that there already anything that today you can enter the pile. Meanwhile, if you want
some really lovely pictures of the first Lady Grace Coolidge and her raccoon friend Rebecca up on the website and nine p. I devoured
ninety nine percent. Invisible was produces week by our senior producer, Katy Mingle, based on Amy Dempsey, Epic raccoon story from the Toronto star. You should really read all the story. It's great well, a link in the website makes intact production by refusing music by Sean Rio deception,
is dedicated to Curt Cole said who enjoys nothing better than being placed in a bathtub with a little water in it and given a cake of soap with which to play wrestling team. Is he
editor Delaney Hall Average Governmental, Emmett Fitzgerald Vivian
Joe Rosenberg, Terran Mazur and me roman moors we're product. Ninety one point: seven k, L debut in San Francisco.
Produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown oakland. California,
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.