Thank god I moved. I just know the unruly gangs of raccoons in my old hood were too smart, dextrous and determined to let the city's so-called coon-proof green bins get in the way of a good meal. And judging by all the cursing and swearing going on about bin break-ins lately, my coons obviously weren't the only clever ones.
Yet as City Hall catches flak for giving us fallible containers, I can't help but feel people are unfairly ganging up on the poor little plastic boxes.
No doubt the warmer it gets, the more deliciously aromatic rotten broccoli becomes to a whiskered snout - hence their greater resolve to keep working a bin until it cracks. But we were throwing out our perishables long before organics containers arrived. Did anyone kick and scream for an end to garbage collection when the masked bandits tore through our plastic bags every week?
Adds Geoff Rathbone, solid waste management services director of policy and planning, "What we have now is certainly more raccoon-proof than green garbage bags." (If he weren't so darn friendly, that might be haughty sarcasm I detect in his voice).
In fact, Rathbone insists the green bin latches are working just fine for the most part, but the city is developing a supplementary latch that should be available in six to eight weeks (for an added cost) for those having problems. Complaints might be common, says Rathbone, but there haven't been thousands of them.
And it's taken a while, he adds, because finding a balance between keeping persistent raccoons out and letting heavily gloved trash collectors in has been a challenge.
Still, are the latches really at fault or are the midnight waddlers just pulling a Darwin on us? On dark porches and in alleyways around town, the night scavengers are quietly evolving. Just ask raccoon researcher Bob Warren of the University of Georgia. "Natural selection and selective pressures would favour those individuals that would most likely be successful in opening the [green bin]. There's a tremendous amount of potential reward to one individual that might figure it out, so they're going to keep at it."
And it seems no latch or security system can stop them.
According to Rob Sinclair, the former coordinator of Ottawa's organics collection program, the most aggressive and persistent animals ignored padlocked tops and chewed right threw the heavy plastic sides. The only thing that does work, says Ottawa's new coordinator, Chris Woods, is rubbing Vicks VapoRub menthol cream on the containers.
In truth, nearly everyone you ask has tips on how to keep the critters at bay, but that's assuming you want to. You see, despite their reputation, I admire the furry revolutionaries. We stole their natural habitat, so they ransack ours. They outwit, outlast and outplay us on a weekly basis.
Plus, they process our food scraps much more cheaply than the city's industrial composter.
Of course, I've now moved six blocks over, and my new raccoons are either too busy or too lazy to get into my box, even with its busted latch.
And while any bin-tipping can be blamed on the 10-year-old yahoos my boyfriend regularly chases up the street, you can bet the furry foragers will always take the fall.