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Gang of garbage-filching cockatoos and can-crashing critters raid bins

Burt's Eye View

It is my household duty to take out the trash.

I don’t. I let our “trash panda” do it for me.

The trash panda is the roly-poly raccoon that lives in the woods outside our rural home. He probably would move inside if we invited him politely. His bags are packed, ready to take up residence as soon as we change our minds.

In the meantime, the critter covers my chores for me.

Anytime Terry sets something out on the back step as a general hint, I leave it. The raccoon carts it away by morning.

This also works when I’m trying to ditch “good-for-you” food reeking of healthy gunk like fibers, antioxidants and magnesium. I sneak that stuff outside, and Roly-Poly does the rest.

“You really should put dangerous things like health food in the trash bin to protect wildlife,” you say?

I might, but I can’t dislodge the lid. That’s a job for wildlife worldwide.

I have here an Associated Press story from Australia about a gang of garbage-filching cockatoos.

A few years ago, Sydney ornithologist Richard Major saw one of those white birds with a yellow cowlick grasp a hinged bin lid with its sharp beak, pry it open, then shuffle far enough along the bin’s edge until the lid fell backward. Bingo. The dinner buffet is served.

Major and other researchers determined in early 2018 that cockatoos in three Sydney suburbs had mastered this trick. By the end of 2019, reports of canned cockatoos were reported in 44 suburbs. Birds who learned how to crack the case were teaching others to go and do likewise.

Every cockatoo in the world undoubtedly knows how to open trashcans by now.

We don’t have any cockatoos.

A black bear wandered through our yard once. Black bears are notorious for being able to pop the lids off any trash bin. He didn’t bother ours. Once the raccoon told the bear about the waiting list for our spare room, the bear became discouraged and left.

Hong Kong spent $1 million recently designing trash cans to thwart monkeys and wild boars. Prospects of defeating the genius of rubbish thieves were not promising.

According to another news story, the raccoon has become the unofficial city mascot of Toronto in Canada. Reports surfaced about raccoons riding the subway and airport baggage carousels, breaking into banks and doughnut shops, even going to baseball games. And they were wriggling into homes and making sandwiches and such.

The city spent $31 million to design a raccoon-proof garbage can. It worked — but only for a few days. The raccoons figured out they could break the lock by tipping over the bins.

Then they stole cellphones and texted the cockatoos in Australia and monkeys in Hong Kong. The news story didn’t say that, but I’m sure that’s what happened.

Me, I’m just going to keep setting out the trash for the raccoon to toss in my bin.

I wonder if I can teach him to wash our cars.

— Meet Burton Cole Sept. 1, 2, 4 and 6 at The Vindicator tent at the Canfield Fair, where he will sign his humorous children’s novels. Contact him at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or at www.burtonwcole.com.

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