toronto raccoons

Toronto uses adorable raccoon in bowtie to convince you not to feed raccoons

Raccoons are just a part of life in Toronto, and even if they've strewn delicious garbage all across your lawn, it's hard not to love the little trash pandas.

But the City is cracking down on people who feed wild animals, and in an apparent misstep in judging their audience, they've attempted to hammer that point down using possibly the cutest species of local animal wearing a freakin' bowtie.

On Thursday, the City issued a press release urging the public to refrain from feeding local wildlife, citing "an increase in negative interactions involving people and wildlife in Toronto," most notably foxes and coyotes.

"Feeding wild animals changes their natural instincts and may increase their presence and tolerance of people, creating problems for both wildlife and Toronto communities," warns the City statement.

Feeding wildlife is already prohibited in Toronto parks, and starting on April 1, new regulations will clamp down on people leaving food out with new fines under Chapter 349 of the Animals Bylaw.

Supporting the updated regulations, the City has embarked on a PR campaign featuring that adorable aforementioned raccoon in public settings like bus shelters, a move that has some scratching their heads.

Perhaps the best reaction came from Chris Betts, a comedian best known for his outdoor comedy shows held at the Cloak & Dagger. After encountering the ad on a bus shelter, Betts took to Twitter in all caps professing his desire to feed the bowtied bandit spaghetti.

Betts tells blogTO that he snapped the picture on his way to catch a streetcar on Queen's Quay in downtown Toronto.

"It was one of the rotating bus stop ads. The one I stopped for was actually a fox in a bandana," says Betts. "It had already gone when I pulled out my phone, so I waited for a second for it to come back, and then this spiffy bandit showed up."

He says the seemingly contradictory tone of the advertisement had him laughing, saying that "It's two opposite ad campaigns in one. One that's sensible advice not to feed the raccoons, and another that says, 'Raccoons are a gift, cherish them and rain gifts of deliciousness upon them.'"

The viral tweet has been shared over 13,000 times with 714 quote Tweets, 3 million views, and over 114,000 likes as of 2 p.m. Friday, but Betts still has a favourite comment among the hundreds of replies.

"My favourite theory in the replies was the ad didn't have a bow tie originally. Raccoons ran around and stuck them on in a perfect counter-move."

Even the City of Toronto's official Twitter account got in on the train of comments.

When asked why spaghetti was the handout of choice, he explained that the dish "came straight to mind because he's obviously on a date, and later tonight, he and his crush will be eating from the same plate and accidentally eat two ends of the same piece and smooch. Or at least touch noses, I don't know enough about raccoon affection. The best food I've watched them eat is grapes."

In an unprompted but entirely welcome tangent, Betts then urged me to go watch videos of raccoons eating grapes, a request I happily obliged.

"They gobble it down like little monsters and go straight for another one. If the insides of eyelids had screensavers, that would be mine," he said.

But even if raccoons eat grapes in quite possibly the cutest manner of any animal (with their dumb little grabby hands I love so much), or you are sitting alone with a plate of spaghetti and a little furry bandit approaches, that is no excuse to feed them or any other wildlife.

No matter how tempting it may be.

Lead photo by

City of Toronto

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