Who’s Outsmarting Who?


Juvenile raccoons contemplating their next move (photo courtesy PBS NATURE)

This morning I went out the back door at 6am — in the dark — with a bag of garbage. I do this every Friday to outsmart the raccoons.

Raccoons are thriving in my neighborhood though we rarely see them. Last night, for the first time in many months, I saw a hunched shadow cross the street on a nocturnal ramble. They’re still here.

Mostly we see their evidence so we try to outsmart them.

The garbage truck arrives in our back alley as early as 6am but we’ve learned from experience that if we put the garbage out the night before the raccoons rip it open and scatter the contents. Nowadays I take out the garbage as close as possible to the garbage truck’s arrival. One morning I missed the truck. Dang!

Seven years ago PBS NATURE premiered a program called Raccoon Nation that showed how creative urban raccoons can be. One of the scientists remarked:

The more obstacles you throw in their way become more challenges, so it’s quite possible that by providing more and more obstacles we are in fact selecting for smarter raccoons.

— from Raccoon Nation program on PBS NATURE

I’ve changed my Friday morning schedule to foil the raccoons. Have I outsmarted them or have they outsmarted me?

Click here for a short web exclusive video of raccoon babies + more exploring in a kitchen.

(photo and video clip from PBS NATURE)