By Julie Kish 

Wildlife will always be among us in Scarborough. The abundance of wooded areas and streams make it a hospitable habitat for deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and skunks. There are more wild animal sightings during the winter months as they aren’t hidden by foliage, but there’s no reason to fear these animals. With a little knowledge, we can all safely coexist.

Wild animals are wary of people and will usually keep a respectful distance, but they will wander into human territory when they know it’s a reliable food source. The most important rule for safe coexistence is: DO NOT FEED WILD ANIMALS, EVER. Not only is it prohibited by city bylaws, but they will also become conditioned to associate humans with a food source. If you leave food outside for your pet or allow wildlife to access your garbage, it’s the same as feeding them. 

You’ll find plenty of tips for making your garbage animal-proof on the City of Toronto website, On the same site, you’ll also find information on How to Wildlife Proof Your Home. With a little proactive preparation, you can prevent a skunk or raccoon from taking up residence under your deck or shed. If you need to have a family of critters removed from your premises, you’ll have to hire a costly, private wildlife removal service, so prevention is the best plan.

Wild animals may not pose much risk to people, but cats and small dogs could be mistaken for a meal by a hungry coyote, so keep your dogs on a leash and don’t leave your small pets unsupervised for long periods in your backyard.

If a coyote comes too close for comfort, there is no reason to panic. Encourage it to keep moving by shouting and gesturing aggressively. Coyotes are naturally timid animals and will run away when frightened. For more information on coyotes, visit and check out Coyotes in the Urban Landscape, a fascinating e-learning module produced by the City of Toronto in partnership with Coyote Watch Canada.

Canine Distemper (CDV) is a virus generally present in the raccoon population, but the levels were higher than usual this past fall. It’s never normal for an adult raccoon to stumble around during the day, looking disoriented and lethargic. This is a symptom of CDV.

CDV poses no risk to humans but can be deadly for dogs if they haven’t been vaccinated. This fall, Toronto Animal Services received a high number of service requests about sick raccoons. “Calls were 75 percent higher compared to the same period in 2019,” according to Esther Attard, Director of Toronto Animal Services. The number of calls has decreased with the colder weather. “Please call 311 if you see injured, sick or very young wildlife,” instructs Attard. Do not approach the animal or touch them.

If we follow these few simple rules, we can safely coexist with wild animals.

  • Do not approach wild animals
  • Do not touch wild animals, even if they appear tame, sick or injured
  • Never feed wild animals
  • Keep dogs on a leash and away from wild animals