Dead raccoon honoured with Toronto sidewalk shrine
A Toronto raccoon gained a new level of notoriety on Thursday, when its impromptu memorial site began trending nationwide on Twitter.
A Toronto man, Jason Wagar, told CTVNews.ca he was on his way to work at 9 a.m. on Yonge Street and Church Street on Thursday when he noticed the large, dead body of a raccoon covering part of the sidewalk.
A little perturbed by the sight, he reached out to Toronto city services on Twitter.
@311Toronto There’s a dead raccoon on the sidewalk outside 819 Yonge (at the SE corner of Church).— Jason Wagar (@jasonwagar) July 9, 2015
"I wanted to make sure that Animal Services knew that it was there so they could come pick it up," Wagar said later on CTV News Channel.
City officials responded within minutes and assured Wagar the dead critter would be picked up and disposed of.
"Excellent, thanks! Poor fella had a rough night," Wagar wrote back.
Hours passed and Wagar walked by the body again at around 3 p.m. By that time, flowers and cards had been placed around the dead animal as a makeshift memorial. One mourner placed a cigarette in its tiny paw, despite the fact that dead raccoons can carry diseases like rabies.
Another passerby printed a photo of a raccoon, framed it and left it by the little bandit's body.
From there, the tale of the dead raccoon grew on Twitter. It was given a name, Conrad, and dozens of photos of people visiting the memorial were posted on Twitter.
"Don't quite know what to say about this sidewalk discovery except that it really brought ppl together," a woman wrote after stumbling upon the strange scene.
Others posted their condolences.
"Sleep well my sweet prince, people loved you and remember you," one person wrote.
"Never forget. He will truly be missed. RIP. #DeadRaccoonTO," another posted.
Never forget. He will truly be missed. RIP. #DeadRaccoonTO— devon sawa (@DevonESawa) July 10, 2015
"I think it's a uniquely Toronto story in a sense that we tend to have celebrate all these wild creatres who we share our environment with," Wagar said.
"Toronto's a city where people like to come together and honour and celebrate lives, maybe in a dark way."
The hashtag #deadraccoonTO started trending coast-to-coast with some struggling to understand why such attention was being paid to a dead pest. A Twitter account was also created, honouring the raccoon's memory.
Hello from raccoon heaven #DeadRaccoonTO— DeadRaccoonTO (@DeadRaccoonTO) July 10, 2015
The raccoon made headlines on Time.com, the Washington Post, the Daily Mail and the BBC.
Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat weighed in on the discovery, tweeting, "First #IKEAMonkey, now #DeadRaccoonTO. And people think we're a divided city."
City Coun. Norm Kelly took notice and waded in to the online memorial for the dead critter, encouraging city staff to clean up the carcass. As the day unfolded, he decided to contribute his own jokes to the mix.
Damn. Life's so short.— Norm Kelly (@norm) July 10, 2015
Residents are being asked to keep their green bins open tonight in honour of #DeadRaccoonTO.— Norm Kelly (@norm) July 10, 2015
The raccoon's body was removed around midnight, roughly 15 hours after it was first reported. The memorial was left on the sidewalk.
Wagar said the city gets approximately 35,000 roadkill calls per year, and that organizers try to conduct most carcass pickup in the evening when roads are less busy. Their usual response time is usually approximately 24 hours, he said.
Wagar said the department has also had some budget cuts in the recent past, which may explain the long wait.