By Jessica Lovell
A local woman wants to warn other residents to be mindful about latching their green bins, after she found herself saving a raccoon from being baked alive.
“They get inside and then the bin lid falls on them and they can’t get out,” Caroline Harvy-Smith said of the raccoons that go foraging for meals in the residential waste containers. ours of the morning when she awoke to the sound of a neighbour’s bin lid closing. She went to investigate and heard the raccoon chatter from within. It seemed a young raccoon had managed to push open the lid just enough to climb inside, but once in there, the critter couldn’t get out.
“The next day was a boiling-hot day and the raccoon would have died in there,” said Harvy-Smith.
Luckily, she was there to tip the bin and let the little guy go free.
The incident prompted Harvy-Smith to warn her neighbours in the St. George’s Park area about remembering to latch their bins while they sit outside.
But an unlatched bin led to another trapped raccoon a couple of days later. In that case, the neighbour made the discovery and let the animal go.
So far, no raccoons have died in her neighbourhood as a result of their foraging habits, but Harvy-Smith thought it’s worth warning others about the danger.
The city’s manager of integrated services with Solid Waste Resources, Heather Connell, said so far, there haven’t been any complaints from residents about animals becoming trapped in the bins.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” she said.
The city began its phase-in of the plastic waste carts for its new automated collection program in the fall of 2012. The remaining city neighbourhoods are to get their bins this fall.
The blue and grey carts, meant for recyclables and garbage, don’t have latches. But the green bins, meant for yard and kitchen waste, latch closed to help keep scavengers out.
“There is a latch for the green bin, so we encourage residents to use it,” said Connell.
The city’s instructions, however, ask that the latch be left open when the cart is placed at the curb for automated collection. But in spite of these bins being left open, sometimes overnight, the city hasn’t heard of any incidents of animals trapped inside.
“If residents are having issues with animals, we do recommend putting them out first thing in the morning, instead of the night before,” said Connell.
Harvy-Smith thinks its unlikely that raccoons could get into the bins when they are on the curb, spaced properly for collection, for the same reason that it’s difficult for the animals to get out of the bins once they get inside.
The bins are tall. “They’re well built and they don’t fall over very easily,” Harvy-Smith said. “I don’t know if they would be able to get in if they were all standing on their own.”
In the case of her neighbours’ bins, she believes one raccoon used a nearby woodpile to climb up and open the bin. Another animal probably used a small shed to climb up to access the bin.
Connell recommends that people who aren’t able to store their bins indoors try to keep them away from things that animals could easily climb.
On the off chance that an animal might end up in a bin that was awaiting pickup at the curb, Connell said cameras in the collection trucks would alert drivers to the situation.
“If they did see it, they would stop,” she said.
If an animal were to die in a bin, it should not be left there to be collected as waste, Connell said.
“We don’t accept animal carcasses,” she said.
In Guelph, the Guelph Humane Society is responsible for animal control services, including issues relating to ill or injured wild animals. Residents can call the animal protection/control team at 519-824-3091 to remove dead wildlife during normal business hours.
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By Jessica Lovell