TORONTO – Prolonged flooding at Hanlan’s Point Beach on the Toronto Island has forced the area’s endemic nudist population to migrate to the mainland, sparking a flurry of nudist sightings in Toronto’s downtown core.
The protected nude beach is normally a prime stomping ground for the region’s endangered nudist herd who gather in the sand every summer to strut, preen, and jiggle for each other by the water’s edge, an area safe from poachers who sell their organs as aphrodisiacs on the black market.
But since high water levels in lake Ontario submerged the beach last month, nudists have been spotted as far north as Dundas street, far from their natural habitat of scrubby sand dunes secluded from public view. Sightings of the shy but notoriously shameless creatures have drawn crowds of onlookers, including amateur nudist watchers like Tom and Deb McCowan.
“They’re so majestic,” says Deb, who recently encountered a pair of nudists playing hackey sack below her condo balcony at Queens Quay and Spadina. “At first I was worried about them getting into the trash. But now I’m glad they’re there. It really makes you appreciate the wonder of nature, even in the big city.”
But onlookers should watch from a distance according to Pat Hoffman, a naturist naturalist who warns that nudists can be territorial. “If you see a towel laid out next to a pair of shoes with a watch and keys tucked inside on top of a fluorescent windbreaker – that’s a nudist’s way of saying, ‘this is my home’,” says Hoffman, and it’s best to keep your distance.
There are a lot of myths about nudists that simply aren’t true, according to Hoffman. “Nudists will not get tangled in your hair, and they can’t smell fear – not literally.”
He says nudists can be handled with common sense. If an unwanted nudist is hovering around your picnic or barbecue, don’t panic or swat at it. It’s best to make a lot of noise by banging pots and pans. “Believe it or not the nudist is probably more threatened by you than you are of it. Just ignore it and it’ll wander away on its own.“
He also warns against trying to lure nudists indoors, or clothe them. “A nudist’s place is outdoors, naked. We should respect that.”
According to reports, so far only one incident required animal control to be called-in, tranquilizing and relocating an errant nudist silverback after causing trouble in the Trinity Bellwoods dog park. Although social media erupted when one nudist trapped inside a Home Depot, staff opened a window, allowing the nudist to eventually find its way out.
Experts are also concerned that the migration, while exciting for naturist lovers, could be a red flag for the world’s nudist population. It’s not yet fully understood how nudists contribute to the larger ecosystem, and severe weather patterns may continue to disrupt naturists natural habitat, a phenomenon experts call Nudist Colony Collapse Disorder.
Those fears won’t deter the McCowans, who continue to watch for nudists from their living room window. “We call the big one Scruffy,” says Deb, pointing to a large naked man sunning himself on a mailbox. “We’ve come to think of them as part of the family.”