In Toronto, which emerges from a strict monthslong lockdown next week, the pandemic has brought residents closer to their local wildlife—and the interactions have not always gone well. Public health authorities say there has been a 62% increase in reports of people being scratched or bitten by raccoons, the CBC reports. Calls to Toronto Animal Services about sick or injured raccoons more than tripled year-on-year to over 13,000 in 2020. Authorities say raccoons aren't getting more aggressive, but people staying home or taking more walks in their neighborhoods are encountering sick animals and getting bitten when they try to deal with them themselves. Some people have also been bitten or scratched when petting or feeding wild raccoons, which authorities strongly advise against.
"It’s really just people being foolish," says Derick McChesney, owner of a wildlife-control company, per the Guardian. "I’m face-to-face with them pretty much every day. One might be aggressive, especially if there are babies around. But for the most part nothing’s really changed with them. Instead, people are at home more and unfortunately, they’re also being foolish." McChesney says many people staying home all day are realizing for the first time that raccoons are living in their attics or crawl spaces. "They’ve always had a unique ability to figure out where the quiet spots of the house are," he says. "They love to nest directly above the master bedroom" because it's usually quiet in the daytime, he says. (Raccoons are usually nocturnal, but distemper can make them act like "zombies" in the daytime.)