By Ben Cohen

Sightings of diseased raccoons and raccoon-related injuries skyrocketed last year — but it’s probably not because Toronto, Canada’s masked dumpster-divers are getting sicker and more violent.

During the pandemic, we’re spending more time roaming our own neighborhoods, instead of visiting other cities or commuting to work. As a result, we’re running into raccoons more often — and probably getting a little too close for comfort.

The main reason Toronto Animal Services gets calls about sick raccoons is because they are suffering from canine distemper virus.

According to the city, Toronto Animal Services received 13,712 requests to help sick and hurt raccoons last year, compared to 4,172 in 2019.

Between January last year and February this year, Toronto Public Health saw a 62 per cent increase in reports of people being bitten or scratched by raccoons, compared to the two-year average between 2018 and 2019.

Animal behaviourist Suzanne MacDonald said in an email that the city’s data is hard to interpret.

“There could be an increase in sick or aggressive raccoons, but in my mind, it is much more likely due to the fact that people are spending more time at home and thus are interacting more with raccoons that they otherwise wouldn’t even be aware of,” she said.

In fact, in its news release, the city speculates that the increase could also have been caused by Torontonians spending more time outside exercising in their neighborhoods during the pandemic.

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