This morning I watched a fascinting PBS documentary about raccoon intelligence.
Here is a link to the full 50 minute video.
Raccoons are one of the most remarkable animals in North and Central America. Originally an animal of tropical riverbanks, their phenomenal adaptability has allowed them not just to spread as far North as Alaska, but into urban environments. This adaptability is due to three factors they share with mankind: they are omnivorous, they rely on their remarkably dextrous and sensitive hands, and they are very curious and smart.
Additionally, they can climb about as well as a cat, protecting them from most other predators and they can wirewalk power and telephone lines almost as well as a squirrel.
Raccoons actually thrive better in artificial environments where man thrives than in natural wild environments. Many cities have a raccoon "problem," Toronto, Canada, chief among them. But, due to some human stupidity, they have been introduced in Germany and Japan as well. While they are primarily a nuisance in Germany, they are actively destroying some of Japan's most precious and revered historical sites.
Based on the evidence of urban raccoons fitted with GPS collars, we know that raccoon territories tend to be surprisingly small, averaging just three city blocks, usually defined in part by major roads, which take on the role of avoidable predators. They have become so urbanized that even when their territory borders on a city park, they almost never wander into the park.
While specific behaviors cannot be passed on through the genes, general intelligence can, and the urban environment is so rife with rewards to be won by solving puzzles, clearly we are actively and rapidly increasing the level of raccoon intelligence. Add to this the fact that researchers have shown that raccoons can learn by observing non-raccoons deal with problems, and that raccoons, while perhaps not as smart as dolphins, crows, parrots, and monkeys yet, they are getting there rapidly. And they have physical advantages over most of those other species, too.
If raccoons are a big problem now, they may soon become an unbeatable problem.
It's amazing, given how many raccoons exist around us, that so little is known about things like raccoon society. They are often seen in groups but are these families or friends or do they simply tolerate strangers?
I wonder if them being so hated as pests has anything to do with the seeming lack of interest in them.
Crows used to get similar treatment, and look at the new discoveries about them.
My varmint dog Delta has "terminated" four in the past three weeks. As my wine grapes get closer to harvest the coons become more bold.
They are very smart creatures but they need to figure out how to avoid all those olfactory receptors resident in Delta's nose. :^ )
Give 'em a few more years.
We used to have a raccoon we called Rocky who would come into our livingroom for a meal of cat food every night. Once we got dogs he stopped coming. We also had a flying squirrel who would run inside grab a piece of cat food and run out to the deck rail to eat it
When I lived in the U.S. my mum would leave food out for the cats and when it was empty our neighborhood racoons would knock at the front door. Never attacked our cats tho. He was even starting to teach his young ones but we figured it best to bring our cats inside and not leave food out any more at night for the safety of the raccoons when we moved.