Raccoon Nation

Raccoons are perhaps the most devastating mammalian predators on bluebirds, capable of climbing almost any pole to clean out a nestbox of eggs or young. Bluebird supporters go to great lengths to protect nestboxes from marauding raccoons, and some folks consider the raccoon to be their sworn enemy.  But even the most hardened raccoon-hater will grudgingly concede that, in spite of all their faults, the little masked bandits are smart. Very smart.

Now comes news that raccoons might actually be getting smarter — and it’s all our fault. Earlier this year, Public Broadcasting System aired an hour-long episode of its popular program Nature called “Raccoon Nation,” which featured urban-living raccoons. Scientists studying the raccoons put forth the interesting idea that the complex environment found in urban areas pushes raccoons to learn more and, thus, makes them smarter.

It’s a fascinating show; check your local listings to see if it will be aired again. Alternatively, you can go to www.pbs.org and search for “Raccoon Nation” — the entire episode is available online for free viewing. PBS also sells a DVD of the entire episode through their website.