The unusual animal started to lose its fur a couple of years ago, say neighbours. It's managed to survive at least one winter without a coat.
They called it the Toronto Terror. Whatever "it" is.
Pictures surfaced this week of a strange creature roaming the backyards of Parkdale. It's the size of a small dog and completely hairless. It's a bit pink, though it also appears freckled.
The snapshots circulated on the web, prompting an outbreak of amateur zoology. Is it a waxed raccoon? A plus-sized opossum? Or some strange species as yet undiscovered in the wilds of the west end?
"This is quite clearly a hairless raccoon," judged York University biologist Suzanne MacDonald.
The denuded mammal hangs out in the King St. W. and Dowling Ave. area, in the backyard of Christella Morris and Colin Williams. Three weeks ago, Williams captured the raccoon on video and posted the results on YouTube. Morris has named her "Baldy."
In one video, Baldy can be seen eating dog food from a bowl in broad daylight. When a couple of more hirsute raccoons amble in for a bite, Baldy stares them off.
"She's very cute, and a little skittish, like any other Toronto raccoon," said Morris, 23, a music merchandiser. "A lot of attitude, like, `What the hell are you looking at?'"
It's definitely a "she." In recent photos, Baldy appears to be lactating. Neighbours say she began losing her hair a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, she gave birth to at least one litter of properly furred raccoons. She's somehow survived at least one winter without a coat. The fact that Morris's landlord leaves out food probably helps.
As to the cause of her condition, experts are stumped.
"It either has a very severe case of mange or a chronic condition, like alopecia," said MacDonald.
Experts at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College suggested an autoimmune disease or a genetic mutation.
"Maybe she ate some radioactive garbage," Morris said. "She doesn't appear to have any magical powers."
"The raccoon does seem to be a good weight and properly hydrated," said Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre. "Just very strange-looking."
Karvonen said the wildlife centre often comes across bald red squirrels, but even they have some hair. Baldy appears completely fur-free.
As a result, the centre is planning to investigate. If Baldy needs help, she will be captured and treated. If she's fine as is, they'll leave her be.
According to Morris, the only thing afflicting the raccoon at this moment is looks-based prejudice.
"It'd be great if people called her Baldy instead of the Toronto Terror," said Morris.
"I'd adopt her. If she wouldn't tear my face off. Or eat my cat."
Click to view image: 'BALDY'
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