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Are raccoons and squirrels working together to gain access to Toronto's new green bins?

"It was only a matter of time before raccoons enlisted the help of squirrels to gain access to the bins," said Brad Gates of Gates Wildlife Control.

Toronto's new green bins are billed as "raccoon-proof" but photos circulating online suggest they may be vulnerable to gnawing squirrels.

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Toronto's new green bins are billed as "raccoon-proof" but photos circulating online suggest they may be vulnerable to gnawing squirrels.

Toronto raccoons may have found a new ally in their war against green bins: squirrels.

On Wednesday, a local Twitter user posted photos of their new green bin with what appeared to be holes chewed through the lid.

 “The chew marks absolutely belong to a rodent,” said Brad Gates of Gates Wildlife Control. “And the person who posted the photo said they saw a squirrel jump out, so the evidence points to a squirrel.”

The new bins began rolling out last week, and were touted as raccoon-proof by Mayor John Tory and city staff. However, Gates said that once a squirrel chews through the lid, a raccoon should be able to enlarge the hole enough to gain entry, or simply grab any tasty morsels with their dextrous hands.

“In a nutshell, no pun intended, the squirrels are making the bins accessible to raccoons,” he said.

City staff say they’re working to get their hands on the damaged bin to confirm that bushy-tailed bandits were indeed the culprits.

“Unfortunately, the person who posted the photos is not willing to give the city any personal information or their address so we can go and inspect the bin,” said Toronto’s manager of solid waste services, Jim McKay.

“There’s speculation that it might be the work of a squirrel or a rat, but until we get our hands on it, we can’t confirm that it wasn’t vandalism.”

The person who posted the photo also declined an interview with Metro.

McKay said the city consulted with its resident animal expert, Suzanne McDonald – a York university professor who tested the design of the new bins – and she “raised a flag” about the size of the holes shown in the pictures.

“It would be unusual for an animal to eat such a large hole,” McKay said. “They typically only chew through enough to gain access to the container.”

Gates disagreed, saying squirrels will often gnaw much larger holes than necessary.

“They’re rodents, so their front teeth are always growing, so they have to chew on things to maintain a shorter length,” he said. “This looks like it just got to a point where the animal was just enjoying gnawing on the plastic.”

McKay acknowledged “interspecies cooperation” could lead to raccoons gaining access to the new green bins, but he doubts it will become a major concern. The new bins are made of the same plastic resin as the old ones, he said, less than one per cent of which are reported damaged each year.

Any residents whose bins are damaged are encouraged to call 311 to arrange for a replacement or repair. In the meantime, McKay recommended “home remedies,” including spraying hot sauce on the lids of their bins.

“It will help to prevent chewing without harming the animal as animals don't typically like the taste,” he said.

The new bins are being manufactured by Rehrig Pacific, which landed the 10-year, $31 million contract from the city. They began rolling out last week, and the city is delivering an estimated 1,000 new bins a day. 

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