Raccoon Nation
Full Episode

Watch the full episode of the PBS Nature film, Raccoon Nation.

Are human beings, in an effort to outwit raccoons, actually making them smarter and unwittingly contributing to their evolutionary success? Are the ever more complex obstacles that our fast-paced urban world throws at them actually pushing the development of raccoon brains? In this film, scientists from around the world share their thoughts and work to explore this scientific theory. Attempting to do something that has never been done before, they closely follow a family of urban raccoons as they navigate the complex world of a big city. Buy the DVD or Blu-Ray. Raccoon Nation premiered February 8, 2012. (Video limited to U.S. & Territories.)

  • Carol Taylor

    I discovered Rick Fines last night, thanks to this fascinating (and somewhat creepy) program. Thank you! Where can I get his marvelous song with the refrain “Heaven is a scary place”–when the kits were coming down the tree. iTunes doesn’t have it.

  • Linda Goodwin

    This topic was a great choice; everyone has seen a raccoon! The episode was really informative and well done. The themes of selection, adaptation, instinct, behavior were demonstrated so well using the familiar “rascally bandit.” Wonderful episode and great addition to the archives of “Nature!”

  • Mark

    Very interesting. I’ve had raccoons coming around my house for over 20 years. Also possums. Actually, just tonight, I saw a large possum (mother), with a much smaller one, on my back patio.
    I have a picture, with a large raccoon and a large possum, on my patio, standing not more than 3 feet apart. NOT fighting. I also have cats; that I take care of. They often use the automatic door opener (ME), to be outside for awhile. They are often outside, at the same time as the raccoons and possums. I don’t remember ANY confrontations, except for maybe two male cats.
    The possums seem to come around more often. I notice the raccoons, maybe for a few days, every few weeks. After seeing your program, it is interesting to think that they aren’t traveling too far, in the times when I don’t see them. The area that I am in, in NYC, is near Alley Pond Park. Always figured that they had spread from there. Didn’t realize that their range was So BIG; as far as where they are, in the world.

  • Sharon P,

    Thank you for this wonderful show. When it comes to trying to outsmart raccoons, we humans should just give up. As a wildlife rehabilitator who has worked with raccoons for several years now, I can only say that it is humbling how many times I have been outwitted by baby raccoons. These animals are very curious, very smart, have opposable thumbs, and are omnivorous. Raccoons are a very successful species and this program shows some of the reasons why.

  • Eric J. Ellis

    In minute 16-17 there is a great song that I’d like to know the name of. Can anyone help? It’s not on the production credits. Thanks in advance!

  • Helen

    Wow this was so cool. I live at a farm and we have not seen any racoons so i think were safe. Thbs up.

  • Chris Fisher

    I never knew they were such a problem in Germany and Japan. I missed a few minutes of this episode but why haven’t they tried using dogs to chase them away? There is even a breed called coonhounds especially for this problem. Maybe the lease laws are too strict!

  • Erik Wanta

    They make it sound like crafty raccoons are going to take over cities. They might hone their climbing skills and get incrementally better at garbage penetration but come on. Maybe we should import some Japanese monks and space them every 3 blocks to take care of them :)

  • C. Laing

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is certainly the case in Raccoon Nation. Good science, engaging story telling, drama, original music and stunning visuals all combine to make this a thoroughly compelling raccoon family saga. It is impossible to watch this film and be indifferent about the masked critters wandering our neighborhoods.

  • Fly Freeman

    This programme was so interesting, really let you think about the city from the perspective of the racoons – all the pitfalls and opportunities. Some amazing footage of female racoon wrangling her brood, and her immense patience with them.
    Not just critters that rip apart your garbage…

  • Wynn Walters

    What a fascinating look at one of our best friends/enemies (depends whose garbage can they’re into) – amazing footage of these cunning mobsters at work and play . . . I didn’t catch who made the film, but his/her patience deserves credit. And having the input from experts really gave it substance. I’m sure there are lots of films of cute raccoons, but drawing a conclusion (or supporting a thesis) made the program worthwhile. Good work

  • Bill Netter

    I realize that most people see raccoon’s as more of a pain in the arse then as cute little funny animals, and most of the time they are probably correct in their beliefs. But back in 2004, I had the opportunity to raise a baby male raccoon who was only about 7 days old when I found him. His mother had been killed by a passing car, and he was wandering around aimlessly next to his mother’s dead body. I picked him up, put him in an empty box I had in the back of my Jeep Grand Cherokee, and took him home with me. His eyes still closed, I had to bottle feed him every 4-6 hours for almost a month. From the second he opened his eyes, I became a mother raccoon! (hehe)
    I had a large parrot cage that I used to make him a very comfortable home inside my house. I put the cage in the Living Room as that was the area of the house we were in the most, and this way he would be more comfortable seeing us all the time. I had a 7 year old black Lab dog named Snotz, and he took that little raccoon like they were the best of friends. I would let, “ROCKY”, the raccoon out of his cage and the two of them would run all through the house chasing one another and playing together. It was such a funny sight to see a big black dog being chased by this little raccoon and then vice-versa. Rocky would eat cat food and he faithfully used a litter box I had put inside his cage. Raccoon’s are normally nocturnal, but now and again he would be up during the day so I would let him roam around the house, under constant supervision of course.
    As he became an adult raccoon, of course his personality changed. He did become a bit more aggressive, but whenever I played with him, he never once broke my skin when we wrestled. He would bite my hand in play, but he always seemed to know just how hard he could bite my hand without drawing blood. And when we would finally stop playing, he would calm back down immediately and fall sleep in my lap while I watched TV. I would spend many hours on the internet learning as much as I could about raising a once wild raccoon so I would have the proper knowledge to know what was right and wrong to do for him. I found that much of the info on the net was correct, but that each raccoon really are a little different in personality and I firmly believe that it is all in the way they are raised and treated. Of course there were times that I needed to discipline him for something, and I found that a quick little flick to his nose with a loud, “NO”, usually told him I was not happy. (Never enough to hurt or injure him, but just enough to get his attention! And that always worked just fine.)
    After 4 years and two locks on his cage to stop unwanted escapes, (They really are quite smart little animals and have quite the knack for figuring out how things work ….. hehehe.) Unfortunately, I lost my small farm in central Michigan to the bank ….. yes, it was in 2008 when all the banks were scamming Americans with high interest rates and then foreclosing on them. I had to move back to the big city and I knew that in time I would have problems with city codes and neighbors who were nosy. But I decided to take my chances anyways. I was near the end of a failing marriage, and I let her talk me into finding a farm that took in stray pets and unwanted wild animals from the local DNR. I drove Rocky out to the farm and gave him to the nice couple who owned and took care of these animals. Believe it or not, he was one of the hardest pets I ever had to say goodbye to! We had become very close and I knew I would end up missing him for a long time to come.
    Well, it’s now 2012. The bad marriage is way behind me, the farm is now owned by someone else who took advantage of the low prices of homes in 2011, and I still live in a mid-size city in an apartment. I called the people 3-4 times in the 1st year to see how he was doing, and I received good news each time. I still miss my little buddy Rocky, and I will never forget the fun and crazy times that I shared with him. I’ve got my photo’s and little video’s I made of Rocky raccoon with Snotz the dog playing together and I still view them from time to time. Life goes on and we all get older. But I will never forget the years that I spent with my little buddy Rocky raccoon, or the memories that I still enjoy sharing with others now and then. That little, “Pain In The Arse”, had become, “A Pain In My Heart”, ever since we parted ways. Life can really be amazing from time to time I think!!! (smile)

    THE END!

  • Shelley Cina

    I saw your show on PBS and was surprised to see that raccoons were destroying Japanese temples.
    I wanted to pass on a tip that might be a useful way to control some of the damage. Last year my house became infested with mice. By the end of winter, we had caught about 26 of them. I vowed that I would find something to prevent another infestation so I began to do some research in the summer. I found a product called Critter Out. It is a liquid repellent that you spray directly on your house and anything that you want “critters” to stay off or out of.
    I found this product on this website: http://www.deerout.com. Critter out repels raccoons, rodents, rats and mice. I sprayed it on my house before the fall season and again before the winter set in. I have not had a single mouse in my house all winter. In the instructions it says that the effects of the spray lasts up to 6 months. I believe since I sprayed last in the beginning of November and it is now mid February. I think it could really work for raccoons too if it has worked so well for repelling mice.

  • Sue H

    Racoon urban scavenging cooperation was evident every night that the ever-open dumpster was full enough for them to scramble back out of it at an apartment complex we lived in from 1994-1996 in Boca Raton, Florida. Teams of two or three would stay on the ground to catch yummy refuse thrown down to them by one or two racoons atop the pile in the dumpster; the ones on the ground would then carry their stashes to the shadows at the edge of the parking lot, and were replaced by other clan members who had been waiting there. This would go on for a good while and very often. The group would then repair back to James Rutherford Park (entrance at the end of N 24th Street, canoe and kayak rentals avail, but extending behind businesses to the undeservedly-named “Boca Manor”). These were relaxed-seeming racoon who got to live in a stream-blessed woodland–nothing better than canoeing by an unperturbed fellow dangling in the water up to his neck secure in a cage of mangrove roots. The first year we were there this group of racoons had adopted a small black and white stray kitten who traveled with them and ate what they gave him. Once this cat had grown up they no longer palled around together but they met up often with no apparent anymosity and a degree of occasional PDA.

  • John Norris

    Did I hear on the program that the raccoon distemper can be spread to dogs, horses and humans or did I misunderstand? This may be the source of the distemper outbreaks in dogs that have been previously vaccinated and protected against the canine form.

  • Lori Reed

    Fascinating! I loved this video! I am very interested in the intelligence of wildlife and the effect human encroachment has had on various omnivores. It would seem our ‘friend’ the raccoon may give us a run for our money in a few more decades. Who knows! We may not have to wait for E.T. to invade to find out what it would be like to encounter an ‘alien’ intelligence!

  • Liz Calvin

    I enjoyed this quirky video, especially the drama of the mama and her babies crawling into the garage, and the cool mapping of raccoon travels. My uncle recently related a story about locking a racoon into his garage by accident and leaving on a 2 week vacation. He returned to find a disgruntled and thirsty but intact racoon, and a decidedly un-intact Mercedes, the racoon having chewed the interior , leather seats, door seals and steering wheel.

  • Beth D

    As Mr. Netter expressed, raccoons are a challenging pet. Our Rocky was brought to us by our Lab after days of heavy rains. It was 1968, we’d just moved to an Island near Savannah, on the intra-coastal waterway. The day prior he bought us a dead raccoon with umbilical cord still attached, on the second, he brought Rocky. Hairless, eyes closed, ears flat, we thought it was a squirrel. He played with all of us, the dog and parakeet but did not like the new puppy that came to live with us, so he tried to flush her down the toilet. He loved Christmas, he liked climbling the tree, better than the curtains. he stayed with us for 3 years, never got into the trash, didn’t need to, he ate what we ate, when we ate. Eventually, he began staying out doors for longer periods of time. Probably because no one was staying up late to let him in. He did learn to push the doorbell, someone disconnected it… After many months he brought a female and 3 kits to the door. The female stayed outside but the kits followed Dad. And even tho most people say raccoons are nocturnal, all of ours stayed awake as long as there was someone to play with. So sorry to hear they are transmitting more diseases.

  • John Foust

    If you’d like to learn more about the way that Sterling North’s “Rascal” book became a cartoon series in Japan, and how this led to the problems discussed around minute 24 in the broadcast, visit my web page.

    Although the cartoon was first shown in 1977, the character of Rascal is still quite popular. In fact, according to Kazuo Nagata, a writer and editor for the 5.8-million circulation Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, “Rascal” is bigger than Mickey Mouse in Japan.

  • Lisa Lynn

    A very interesting show. I learned things of which I was previously unaware. I can imagine how tedious some of the segments must have been to capture. Regardless of their mischievous behavior, I love them. Then again, I have not had a lot of trouble with raccoons. Although, there used to be a family living in a tree outside a window of a previous home… sometimes they were a bit noisy, but that was it. They were never able to get into the garbage.

    I, too, am interested in the song with the words “Heaven is a scary place…” where the kits are climbing down from the tree, although can’t find anything more about it on the internet. My dog had a field day barking at the raccoons and dogs in the segment where the family is “squeezing” into the barn, when all participating characters were exceptionally vocal.

  • Barbara Homewood

    Bill Netter, you are my kind of guy. I had a racoon in my garbage can and we went to put something in it and up popped that cute racoon. He scared to to pieces, but he was so cute!

  • Mary M.

    In Chicago I’ve had raccoons living in our garage for some time. Also some not feral cats moved in with them. We began setting out cat food and misc. left-overs for these visitors & in stark contrast to what the video says about a raccoon never backing off of a food source in deferment to a cat, that IS exactly what routinely happened. The cat or cats had 1st pick, as the more shy ‘coons backed away & waited patiently.
    I’m not convinced that the idea of them “washing” their food is the “myth” this video states it is either.
    Other than that, I very much enjoyed the video.

  • Andra Barnington

    Raccoons are so cute! But one time one scared me so bad! I was taking out the trash and rolling the cans out to the road when I heard something crawling around inside the can! So I opened it and looked in……. there was a little raccoon inside! I left it open for a couple minutes, and finally the little guy hopped out and walked away.

  • Brenda

    Again, Bill Netter is also our kind of guy. Your post made me cry! I took care of baby raccoons (3) when I was just 15. I kept them for a short period of time before releasing them back to the spot where the mother had been trapped before giving birth in my backyard! :) I was a happy little camper. Needless to say, the summer was coming to an end & I knew it was best for them to be WILD! I miss ‘em too & feel it was a great experience I will always treasure.
    Brenda, NE Central Florida

  • Eileen Gunning

    For 16 years I have raised chickens, ducks and geese, I lost a few to predators- 3 to a possum, which I live trapped, two to hawks, and a few to a fox. This past week, I lost 10 chickens and 6 ducks to a raccoon. My dog was able to find him in the hay barn one nite, but it was ready to attack and I called the dog off.
    Their ingenuity is amazing. Lifting a full grown duck up over a 6 ft kennel fence lined with chicken wire into and though the only hole in the covering ceiling netting ( about 6 inch square without any trace of the ducks, killing two chickens thru the small opening of a dog crate by decapitating them and then eating pieces of their flesh thru the bars and the grand prize went to this! It removed the carrying handle of a Havahart trap, That has two double U bars that took me an hour to attach, then got the chicken skin and liver that I used as bait – all without tripping the trap! I have to respect them, but they have destroyed my egg business!

  • christine

    I was surprised to see how raccoons, like humans, tend to stick to their own ‘hood.

  • Kevin

    Thanks, my son is now obsessed.

  • Cindy

    This song “Heaven is a scary place”…where do I get it? What’s the name of the song and the artist, I love it.

  • Tena

    I’m with Cindy (November 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm) who said: “This song “Heaven is a scary place”…where do I get it? What’s the name of the song and the artist, I love it.”

    I can’t find it anywhere. If anyone knows, please tell us!

  • Amy L.

    I rescue raccoons that get stuck in the trash cans at our Metro Parks in the Detroit area. They climb into the trash can and cannot get out. I wrote to the Park and asked hem to Purchase Lids for the cans but they haven’t.. I take my dogs to the Park an make an exercise out of it, I go around each can and look inside, If I see a raccoon , I easily tip th can over with the can facing away from me and then I take my dogs and go the Opposite way.. The Raccoons will come out whenever they want. They will die if they cannot get out.. I Love Nature and I just want to say PBS that you have the best programs.. I love the show Nature..

  • Funke

    Rick Fines, the song when the kits are first walking, can find his music here: http://music.cbc.ca/#/artists/RICK-FINES

  • Sheila Thornton

    Although I have downloaded and installed the latest version of Adobe Flash Player, none of these videos will play.

  • ladiesman217

    I thought it was great and I think that raccoons are in some way smarter than ourselves

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