Team Capybara hunts for furry fugitives in High Park

The High Park capybaras days and nights of freedom might soon be over.

Corn is being used to lure the rodents but one volunteer says it may attract raccoons instead

City parks staff say they now know where the capybaras are hiding and their "favoured spots." (Ben Lovatt/Facebook)

The High Park capybaras' days and nights of freedom might soon be over.

Team Capybara, a small group of volunteers dedicated to capturing the rodents on the lam in Toronto, searched for the beasts on Wednesday night in High Park.

In recent days, there have been plenty of sightings of the furry fugitives that have been on the loose for more than two weeks.

Diogo Beltran, a volunteer who wrangled plenty of capybaras in his native Brazil before moving to Canada, said the team is using corn to lure the rodents into a variety of traps that have been set out in areas of the park where the animals have been spotted. 

"Yesterday, we had visual confirmation from the capturing team of the capybara. We were able to locate where they are hanging out. It's an enclosed area. Tonight, we can actually start placing strategic traps that will have a little bit more effect than just the scouting that we were doing before," Beltran said.
Team Capybara is using a variety of traps to try to catch the rodents in a corner of High Park. The hope is that the team doesn't snare raccoons instead. Corn is being used to lure the big rodents. (Ben Lovatt/Facebook)

The traps include: a pressure plate cage, where the animal goes inside the cage and the gate closes; a net trap, in which corn is placed in the middle of the net and a rope is pulled to capture the animal; and a gate pen, which is like a pig pen with a door that closes behind the animal.

Beltan said the problem is the traps have caught the attention of other animals.

"We don't want to capture all the raccoons in the park," he said.

Beltran was trying to capture the rodents Tuesday night with a net.
Ben Lovatt, a volunteer with Team Capybara, says he is urging visitors to High Park to stop taking selfies near the traps set out for the capybaras. All that activity will scare the animals away, he said. (Diogo Beltran)

He said he had two "solid opportunities" Tuesday to catch one of the capybaras when he got within a metre of one of it. The capybara barked and jumped at Beltran when he was in the water. 

Beltran says at least one of the capybaras is hiding in a mostly fenced in area.

City knows 'favoured spots' of capybaras

More and more credible sightings of the fugitives have been rolling in to the city's parks department over the past few days and officials are now confirming that some eager hunters did spot the elusive rodents.

Megan Price, spokesperson for Toronto's parks, forestry and recreation, said the city now knows where the capybara duo is hiding and their "favoured spots."
Diogo Beltran worked with the Tropical Sustainability Institute to capture capybaras in Brazil, a country where the rodents are a major nuisance, not unlike rats or raccoons.

As a result, more traps have been set up in the confirmed sighting area. Experts have told parks officials that bait traps are the best way to catch the beasts. 

But eager amateurs beware, unless you're an experienced wrangler like Beltran, the city is still recommending that members of the public avoid approaching the rodents.

Staff ask that instead you call 311 if you spot the dynamic duo and keep a distance so that they aren't scared away from the area where officials have found them.

But if the capybaras' Twitter account is any indication, it seems like the rodents of unusual size might have realized that their days on the lam are numbered and could be making a run for it.


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