St. Louis Park columnist: Time for some trash talk
By Guest Columnist Jim Vaughan
I’m going to trash talk a bit. I hope you are up for it.
No, not the trash talk you associate with athletes, but the trash talk among us regular folks. This talk is nowhere near as shall we say “descriptive” as the athletic kind, but it gets the point across.
A common talking point for anyone who creates and disposes of solid waste or trash (that is, everyone) is the persistence of critters attacking our waste containers. They just can’t leave us alone!
I have been, on several occasions, the overnight “victim” of many a raccoon dumping my old-style container’s contents out and proceeding to rummage the remains all down the street.
Yes, raccoons are probably our greatest garbage divers. I know many of us do not have the means or the room to store a garbage container inside a protected area, so the container is ripe for the pickings.
But there are a few steps of prevention we can take, such as tieing the container to a post or other solid object to prevent tip-overs or strapping a bungee cord from the lid to the container to hold it tight (although I’ve been told the raccoons will still get into the container). Another idea is to perhaps put a heavy object on the container lid.
I’m sure if you really give it some thought, you will find a creative solution. Unfortunately, nothing for certain is critter proof, except that live trap you are aching the critter to enter.
Another fine, curious and exasperating critter is the gray squirrel. These rodents are everywhere, including our garbage containers, inside and out. At our City Hall for example, we entertain, house and employ several oversized gray squirrels.
They appear to be a squirrel’s version of Alex Rodriguez – bulked up on some illicit substance, or perhaps in the squirrel’s case, lots of fast food remnants left in our entry trash bin.
I think these squirrels are on the payroll since they are continuously found inside and around the container, foraging for food. Remember all life will take the path of least resistance, so if a squirrel has a great gig feasting on trash bins, he or she will never need to pursue the disciplined path of finding and burying nuts as it’s too much work.
I have heard from many people who are tired of the squirrels gnawing their way inside their trash bins. Even our new and improved green trash bins are not immune from this abuse. Gray squirrels claw and chew their way into our hearts and bins.
Did you know that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources considers gray squirrels among the most sought-after small game animals in Minnesota, with more than 150,000 annually “harvested” through hunting? We all have prized game living amongst us and in our cans!
I think part of the problem is that too many of us ignore nature, let alone our trash bins, and let “nature take its course” by relegating the garbage scraps to these critters. This teaches and empowers them that trash containers are an easy and nutritious handout.
We habituate them to seek out our containers by ignoring their intrusion into our lives. Instead of just identifying them, perhaps we call them out (think Bill Murray in “Caddyshack”) and take a stand. Try some form of hazing or deterrent. I think a lot of us are oblivious to the natural world and allow ourselves to become victims of it.
We can change our ways and watch, embrace and interact with nature or we can continue on ignoring this strange “outside” world that bumps into our life, every so often, promoting our need to truly trash talk these critters ($!@%&+! raccoon) while picking up after them, performing another senseless trash walk.
Jim Vaughan is St. Louis Park’s environmental coordinator. He can be reached at email@example.com.