This past summer, an adult deer was found near King and Bay Streets, Canada’s equivalent to Wall Street. When I look at Toronto from any of the approaching highways, one of which is 16 lanes wide and the busiest in North America, I see tall towers and a sprawling metropolis, but it’s what lies underneath this canopy that makes it unique. Underneath, below eye level and in the ravines, the city has numerous arteries of wilderness that allow unexpected encounters to take place, sometimes surprisingly close to the heart of the city. Coyotes lurk no more than ten minutes from City Hall; black bears are spotted in trees and garbage bins in the city’s suburbs to the north; and raccoons own the laneways and greenbelts across the city. There are repeated rumors of cougars prowling in the valleys surrounding Toronto’s Zoo, only twenty minutes from the city core.
Toronto’s mountains are its office and condominium towers, and its valleys are the ravines that wind through each compass direction surrounding the city. Rivers, where fish are spawning again, have arrived from the almost-ocean of Lake Ontario. In order to explore the city, I venture down—down trails, steep roads, and narrow bike paths. Fish are returning to our two largest rivers, the Don River and the Humber River, which transport vital fluids supporting varied vegetation.
One night, well past midnight, what looked like a beaver was spotted crossing the road near my condominium building. I live beside a large green park, another site for deer and fox spotting, but a beaver was unheard of this close to downtown. Beavers brought explorers to Canada a few hundred years ago, when they were ceaselessly trapped and hunted. Today, they and the many other large mammals that prowl and wander the city’s ravines bring a new breed of people to the city: people who want to share their lives in a great place that is comfortable sharing itself with a wide array of wildlife. It is said Toronto is a city of villages and communities, and among those are communities of animals, both common and rare, and each is part of the city called Toronto, or meeting place, according to Native translators. All of us will meet in this great city, and all of us will thrive in this city’s wildness of concrete and canopy.