Colin has a "pet" raccoon that visits his porch. The raccoon will press her tiny paw up against the outstretched palm of Colin's significant other, which rests on the indoor side of the glass. Eventually, the raccoon gets a bit of food because "she" is too cute to resist. The pleased raccoon now visits on a regular basis. Colin fears this cannot end well.
It's difficult to resist the adorably masked face, the gentle paw, and the pleading eyes. Scientists as early as 1907 believed the raccoon to possess a level of curiosity and intelligence resembling that of the monkey. People once kept them as pets, long before rabies became a common scare, including Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge.
Human expansion has driven many species deeper into the woods. Not the raccoon. They thrive in urban locales, using their resourcefulness to get what they need, despite human obstacles developed to hinder their advance. Some scientists say the challenges of city living may be evolutionarily changing the next generation of raccoon.
This hour, the wonders and perils of the raccoon.
- Michael Pettit - Associate professor history of science and psychology at the University of Toronto; author of The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America
- Mark Seth Lender - Producer and presenter for Living on Earth, PRI’s environmental news magazine
- Jay Kaplan - Director, Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton
Colin McEnroe, Chion Wolf, Jonathan McNicol, and Greg Hill contributed to this show, which originally aired on May 18, 2016.