By: Mishaa Khan, Peak Associate
Burnaby campus raccoons must realize that they are on student territory while they willingly pose for Snapchat stories and nibble on dropped food left on the floor. Students forget that raccoons are wild animals with the potential to be dangerous — not the cute, domesticated pets many assume them to be. This is why SFU needs to create and maintain barriers that would prevent raccoons from entering campus buildings. Additionally, SFU needs to improve their safety campaign techniques, so students are aware of the true dangers of wildlife like raccoons. Of course, students also need to make an active effort not to interact with raccoons as well.
The raccoons on campus increase work for the janitorial staff, can trigger allergic reactions, damage property, attack pets, and, according to WildSafeBC, can also carry roundworm — a parasite that can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Raccoons can also hurt themselves by accidentally consuming items that may be harmful to them — items which they otherwise would not have found in the wild. However, students have successfully desensitized raccoons to humans by feeding them, petting them, and using them as props for their ever-growing social media following. These actions result in the wildlife becoming more accustomed to human interaction, which can be harmful to both parties.
Of course, not everyone knows that raccoons are wild animals and should not be pet or fed — and that’s where SFU could stand to improve their messaging. Posters have been placed around campus warning students to not approach raccoons. Student Central has posted these messages on their social media as well, telling students to be wary of raccoons. However, these messages contain only vague warnings not to feed or interact with the raccoons, without also mentioning the real potential danger this behaviour poses.
SFU’s safety campaign teams should be more aggressive, consistent, and creative with their methods to ensure that students are able to understand the gravity of raccoons becoming accustomed to humans. SFU also needs to take proactive measures, like creating recycling and trash bins that raccoons (or any other wildlife for that matter) can’t access, and barriers that prevent them from entering buildings.
But alas, maybe there will be a time when raccoons will be domesticated like all other farm animals and pets, and SFU will have a small niche of pet raccoons which the rest of the world will never understand. Until then, they pose a danger to themselves and students, and should not be allowed to freely roam campus.