Raccoons are smarter than you are

We all know they’re dextrous and clever, but did you know they could do this? Procyon lotor FTW:


  1. Posted April 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Once on a hike, I saw a raccoon going up a tree. It saw me and it made a point of climbing the tree in such a way that kept the trunk of the tree between it and me.

    I figured that must be a natural selection phenomena from the time of humans entering its area.

    • s.k.graham
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      I doubt it has anything to do with humans or recent evolution. Staying out of view and/or keeping a barrier between oneself and any potential threat is a useful behavior for pretty much any animal anywhere.

      • Notagod
        Posted April 7, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        Once on a hike, I spied a porcupine. It was in a tree at about eye level. The tree was on a steeply sloped hill and although the porcupine was 30 feet above the bottom of the tree, it was about level with and 5 feet away from me. It was clearly visible, not hiding, and just kept eating its hunk of bark while presumably looking at me.

  2. marksolock
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  3. steve oberski
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I used to leave dry food and a water bowl outside the back door for the cats.

    After a while I noticed each morning that there was dry food floating in the water bowl.

    Came out one morning and there was a raccoon picking up the dry food and swishing it around in the water. I said something inane like well there, what do you think you are up to ?

    The raccoon picked up the dry food bowl in it’s front paws and started walking on it’s hind legs at a fairly quick pace for the back of the yard carrying the bowl.

    If it had not been for the 4 foot chain link fence I think it would have succeeded.

    • bruce from chicago
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      I had this same problem with raccoons eating the barn cat’s food, but with a little research I found that raccoons don’t jump as well as cats. Here is a web page with the solution – http://www.thewildones.net/raccoons.htm .

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      So funny.

      We also get opossums raiding the kibble left out for the feral cats. Opossums make excellent photographic subjects, since they freeze when caught in the act,and sometimes do their version of a moonwalk. Quite amusing.

  4. Jim Thomerson
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Squirrels will routinely keep the tree trunk between you and them when you are squirrel hunting. Helps to have the dog along. The dog sits and barks at the squirrel while you sneak around where you can see the squirrel hiding from the dog.

    • sailor1031
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      Good grief! Who on earth hunts squirrels?

      • Filipe
        Posted April 7, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

        If you live in a city or a suburban setting they are cute and fluffy and you tend to think about them as pets, if you live in a rural area they are vermin. It’s a huge difference in perspective.

        • mysmilingdog
          Posted April 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

          Seriously. Go to the grocery store and leave the poor squirrels alone. Too much time on your hands…

        • sailor1031
          Posted April 8, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          I do live in a rural area. And we have planty squirrels. They are harmless and tend to mind their own squirrel business. which is more than I can say for the redneck hunters we get around here trespassing on property, tearing ground up with their F350 pickups, firing indiscriminately at sound shots and making the outdoors unsafe for themeselves and everybody else, abandoning their unwanted deer carcasses by the roadside and their unwanted hounds too! I’ll take squirrels thankyou!

  5. Skepticook
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure that isn’t a small person in a raccoon outfit? Maybe the smallest member of the Raccoon Lodge? Woo woo!

    • Draken
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 4:30 am | Permalink

      No, it’s a racoon in a racoon Bigfoot outfit.

  6. Diane G.
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    *shakes head*

    (Lucky they weren’t power lines, no?)

    • Draken
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      Maybe natural selection has taught them to read the skylight signs with ‘DANGER high voltage’?

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

        It’s only clever until someone gets electrocuted.

  7. Slumbery
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Interesting video with a totally wrong title for the article. Do you really think humans do not use the electricity cable this way, because they are less smart than a raccoon?

    Nevertheless, raccoons are smart, for a raccoon. 🙂

  8. Andrew
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    I routinely see brush-tailed possums use whatever wires are available as pathways – thereby avoiding ground predators and cars. I’ve never seen one “walk” like that, but that’s because their balance is good enough to only need one wire. And power lines are apparently well insulated enough for their purposes.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

      It is a bit more complex, since for cost (and IIRC loss) reasons power lines are mostly bare.

      However, I assume climbing animals would prefer tree poles, which would insulate them from ground potential as they move over to the thread.

      And when I checked the facts, I run into the curious fact that large areas of the US has a sort of “covered” lines, which are not to be considered safe but insulating enough to help wildlife. Such lines have less problems with snow covered or for other reasons touching trees, the wild life protection is a bonus. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overhead_power_line ]

  9. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine lives on a lake in Ontario and a family of racoons have adopted her. They will come round, about once a week, and will accept her company and will take food from her. They’re not tame or anything but just appear to have decided that this particular human isn’t a threat.

  10. Jim Thomerson
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Back before the drought of the ’50s, mother would take the 22 and go get a couple of squirrels for lunch. I’m just a prisoner of my upbringing, I suppose. Fried squirrel is really good, and doesn’t taste like chicken.

  11. loves2read
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    The raccoon is at risk of falling, of course. I would have liked to see its successful decent via whatever.

  12. Jim Thomerson
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know much about electric lines. But when I worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers, we found a paper on the dimensions of bald eagles. We gave this to the engineers and they designed poles such that an eagle could not touch two hot wires and get electrocuted. A friend in Venezuela told me of a problem with monkeys getting electrocuted. I gave him a copy of the eagle study. Didn’t hear any more about it, so I don’t know if it had any effect

  13. See Nick Overlook
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Permit me to commend to your attention “Raccoons: A Natural History” by Samuel I. Zeveloff. I found it fascinating.

  14. jay
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Years ago I got a lot of wonderful experience with raccoons. My wife at the time was in animal control and also a state wildlife rehab program, and every summer we would raise several litters of orphaned raccoons for later release.

    They are extremely intelligent, more so than dogs or (sorry Jerry) cats and the have amazing manual dexterity. We avoided letting them see us latch the cage because they would quickly learn to do what we did though with more finesse because those ‘fingers’ were remarkably sensitive.

    I can see why people are tempted to try to raise them as pets, but it is not a good idea. Unlike a dog which will accept you as an alpha, racoons do not have a strong group social instinct, and your ‘pet’ raccoon will eventually decide that there is no reason he should should not be boss.

  15. Joe
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Jim Thomerson: Where was this drought of the 50s of which you speak? My aunt Mary was like your mother. We arrived for a visit (maybe 1948 or 9) at lunch time. Aunt Mary took a 22 down from the kitchen wall, walked through the summer kitchen, fired two shots, and two squirrels fell from a big oak. I remember nothing about the meal, but I was one very impressed nine year-old.

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