Passport
Full Episode
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.

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Narrator: WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN IN CITIES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, ANOTHER WORLD IS REVEALED.

AN UNDERWORLD POPULATED BY SHADY CHARACTERS THAT LIVE ALONGSIDE US, BUT EXIST IN THE MARGINS.

WE THINK OF THEM AS LITTLE GARBAGE CANS.

WE THINK WE KNOW THEM.

Man: THERE'S MANY THINGS ABOUT RACCOON BEHAVIOR THAT WE JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND.

WHAT WE KNOW IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

Narrator: WITH SPECIAL CAMERAS, WE ENTER THE HIDDEN, INTIMATE WORLD OF A YOUNG RACCOON FAMILY TO SEE HOW THIS RACCOON MOTHER'S CAREFUL TEACHING TRANSFORMS HER HELPLESS KITS INTO SELF-RELIANT SCAVENGERS, ABLE TO DEFY THE DANGERS OF BIG-CITY LIFE.

URBAN RACCOON POPULATIONS ARE EXPLODING.

AND CITY LIFE IS CHANGING RACCOONS IN SOME REMARKABLE WAYS.

Man: WE WERE VERY CLOSE TO HIM.

WE'RE GOING TO LOOP BACK AROUND AGAIN AND SEE IF MAYBE HE'S NOT POKING HIS HEAD OUT IN BETWEEN SOME HOUSES.

Narrator: STAN GEHRT IS A WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST AND ONE OF THE WORLD'S FOREMOST EXPERTS ON RACCOON BEHAVIOR.

HE'S BEEN TRACKING THESE ANIMALS FOR OVER 25 YEARS, AND THEY NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE HIM.

Gehrt: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S BECOME VERY CLEAR IS THEY HAVE THIS WIDE REPERTOIRE THAT ALLOWS THEM TO, YOU KNOW, BE SO SUCCESSFUL, BUT IT ALSO MAKES IT A CHALLENGE FOR US TO TRY AND CAPTURE ALL OF THAT AND UNDERSTAND IT.

SO, IN OTHER WORDS, YOU AND I MIGHT STUDY RACCOONS FOR A WHOLE YEAR, AND WE MAY SEE FOUR OR FIVE TYPES OF BEHAVIOR.

THAT MAY NOT GET US ANYWHERE TO UNDERSTANDING WHAT RACCOONS ARE DOING IN ANOTHER PART OF THE STATE, OR JUST ACROSS THE TOWN, OR IN ANOTHER PERSON'S YARD.

THEIR BEHAVIOR IS STILL REALLY A MYSTERY TO US.

Gehrt: THE ONE THING THAT RACCOONS NEED, THAT THEY REQUIRE, THAT THEY CAN'T ESCAPE FROM, IS WATER.

Narrator: ORIGINALLY, RACCOONS LIVED IN THE TROPICS, WHERE THEY COULD BE FOUND FORAGING ALONG RIVERBANKS.

OVER TIME, THEY MOVED NORTH UP THE CONTINENT, SUCCESSFULLY ADAPTING TO NEW TERRITORIES AND EXPANDING THEIR DIET.

TRADITIONALLY, THEY LIVE IN TREE CAVITIES OR BURROWS, EMERGING AT DUSK TO HUNT FROGS AND CRUSTACEANS, WHILE KEEPING AN EYE OUT FOR PREDATORS SUCH AS COYOTES AND FOXES.

BARNS HAVE AIDED THEIR NORTHERN MIGRATION, OFFERING REFUGE FROM COLD NORTHERN WINTERS.

NOW RACCOONS HAVE BEEN FOUND AS FAR NORTH AS ALASKA.

AS RACCOONS SPREAD ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, MANY MOVED INTO CITIES.

AND NOT JUST ANY CITY, BUT BIG CITIES, LIKE CHICAGO, NEW YORK, AND TORONTO -- THE RACCOON CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.

RACCOONS THRIVE ALONGSIDE US IN A PARALLEL WORLD, WHICH OUR SPECIAL NIGHT-VISION CAMERAS WILL REVEAL FOR THE FIRST TIME.

IN TERMS OF BEHAVIOR, COUNTRY AND CITY RACCOONS HAVE ADAPTED INTO TWO VERY DIFFERENT CREATURES.

WHERE SHY, RECLUSIVE COUNTRY RACCOONS RETREAT FROM URBAN SPRAWL, BOLD CITY RACCOONS AMBLE TOWARDS IT.

THERE ARE NOW 50 TIMES MORE RACCOONS LIVING IN TORONTO THAN IN THE SAME AREA IN THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE.

SO, THE QUESTION IS, ARE WE ENCROACHING ON RACCOON TERRITORY, OR ARE THEY ENCROACHING ON US?

Gehrt: CITIES ARE NEW ENVIRONMENTS FOR ANY WILD SPECIES.

NO WILD SPECIES EVOLVED TO LIVE IN CITIES.

THE ONLY ANIMALS THAT LIVE IN CITIES ARE THE ONES THAT ARE EXTREMELY FLEXIBLE AND ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE NOVEL ENVIRONMENTS.

Woman: I THINK RACCOONS ARE A PERFECT MATCH FOR CITIES.

UNLIKE OTHER ANIMALS, LIKE FOXES AND COYOTES, THAT LIVE ON THE EDGES OF CITIES, RACCOONS HAVE THE ABILITY TO COME INTO THE CITY BECAUSE THEY HAVE THOSE GREAT HANDS.

THEY CAN OPEN UP DOORS, THEY CAN GET INTO ATTICS, THEY CAN GET INTO SMALL SPACES.

IN CITIES AROUND THE WORLD WHEREVER THEY'VE BEEN INTRODUCED, THEY DO REALLY, REALLY WELL.

Man: THERE'S A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT TRAITS THAT RACCOONS HAVE THAT ENABLES THEM TO BE READILY ADAPTED TO, OR ALMOST PRE-ADAPTED TO, THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT.

IN COMPARISON TO, SAY, OTHER CARNIVORES LIKE WOLVES OR BEARS, THEY'RE MUCH, MUCH SMALLER IN BODY SIZE, SO THEY CAN ACTUALLY FIT INTO AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT A LOT EASIER.

IN ADDITION TO THAT, THEY'RE OMNIVOROUS.

MacDonald: THEY CAN EAT ANYTHING.

AND THE SAME THING FOR US -- WE CAN EAT ANYTHING.

IT MAKES US ABLE TO RULE THE WORLD BECAUSE WE CAN FIND FOOD ANYWHERE.

Gehrt: MORE THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER MAMMAL, RACCOONS WILL QUICKLY BECOME DUMPSTER DIVERS.

THEY WILL KEY IN ON TRASH CANS OR GARBAGE BAGS, AND THEY'RE GOING TO SPEND A LOT OF THEIR TIME SIMPLY LOOKING FOR THOSE KINDS OF ITEMS.

IT'S GOING TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR.

IT'S GOING TO CHANGE THEIR WHOLE PHYSIOLOGY.

Narrator: AND CITY LIFE MAY EVEN BE CHANGING THE WAY THEY THINK.

Iwaniuk: THERE'S A COMMONLY HELD BELIEF THAT CHANGES IN THE BEHAVIOR OF A SPECIES AS IT'S EVOLVING THEN DRIVE FURTHER CHANGES IN THE BRAIN.

IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE THAT MOVING INTO THE URBAN ENVIRONMENTS IS ACTUALLY CREATING TECHNICALLY SMARTER RACCOONS.

Narrator: LIFE IN THE CITY COULD BE SENDING RACCOONS DOWN A NEW EVOLUTIONARY PATH.

[ SIREN IN DISTANCE ] Gehrt: IT COULD HAVE DRAMATIC IMPACTS ON THE SPECIES, BECAUSE IT IS SUCH A CHANGE, MOVING FROM THE SYSTEM THAT THEY EVOLVED UNDER TO THIS COMPLETELY ARTIFICIAL SYSTEM.

I'M NOT SURE WHAT THE ULTIMATE OUTCOME IS GOING TO BE.

IT IS AN EXPERIMENT, AN UNPLANNED EXPERIMENT THAT'S GOING ON RIGHT NOW.

Narrator: SCIENTISTS KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT HOW RACCOONS SURVIVE IN A BUSTLING CITY.

TWO CANADIAN BIOLOGISTS ARE TRYING TO UNRAVEL THIS MYSTERY.

MARC DUPUIS-DESORMEAUX AND SUZANNE MacDONALD ARE EMBARKING ON A GROUNDBREAKING NEW STUDY THAT WILL TRACK THE PRECISE MOVEMENTS, HABITS, AND PREDILECTIONS OF RACCOONS IN ONE OF NORTH AMERICA'S BUSIEST CITIES -- TORONTO.

MacDonald: WELL, ALL THE TRAPS ARE FOR US TO FIND OUT THE SECRET LIVES OF RACCOONS, SO THAT WE CAN FIGURE OUT, WHAT ARE THEY DOING AT NIGHT?

THE TRAPS ARE TO CATCH THE RACCOONS SO THEN WE CAN PUT A RADIO COLLAR ON THEM, SO THAT WE CAN FIND OUT WHERE THEY GO.

WELL, THERE'S BEEN ALL KINDS OF STUDIES WHERE PEOPLE GET A GPS MARKING EVERY THREE HOURS OR FIVE HOURS, BUT WE'RE GOING TO GET SOME VERY, VERY FINE DATA.

AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT HASN'T BEEN DONE BEFORE.

Narrator: THEIR PLAN IS TO TRAP AND PUT RADIO COLLARS ON RACCOONS IN THREE DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS SPREAD ACROSS THE CITY.

THE COLLARS WILL REGISTER A GPS LOCATION EVERY FIVE TO FIFTEEN MINUTES AND GIVE THE SCIENTISTS A ROAD MAP TO RACCOON TRAVELS 50 TIMES MORE DETAILED THAN ANY DATA GATHERED TO DATE.

WELL, THAT WORKS.

MacDonald: MOST PEOPLE THINK THEY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO RACCOONS, BECAUSE THEY'RE IN THEIR BACKYARD.

BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY'RE NOT IN THE BACKYARD?

SO WHERE DO THEY GO, WHERE DO THEY SLEEP, WHERE DO THEY FIND WATER, WHAT'S THEIR TERRITORY SIZE LIKE?

THERE'S ALL SORTS OF QUESTIONS.

AND NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THE ANSWERS ARE.

Narrator: A SPECIALLY TRAINED VET IS CALLED IN TO SEDATE THE RACCOONS.

Crawshaw: SO SHE'S A GIRL, AND YOU SEE SHE'S A MUM.

MacDonald: AW, SWEET PEA.

AND SHE'S NICELY RELAXED THERE.

GOOD GIRL.

Narrator: WITH THEIR NIMBLE AND PERSISTENT HANDS, RACCOONS CAN UNDO ALMOST ANYTHING SCIENTISTS PUT ON THEM.

Crawshaw: THERE YOU GO, MARC, A RACCOON FOR YOU.

SO I DON'T KNOW THE AGE -- SHE'S NOT AN ANCIENT ANIMAL, BUT A LOT OF THE RACCOONS HAVE REALLY WORN TEETH ONCE THEY'VE BEEN AROUND FOR A FEW YEARS AND THEY'VE BEEN EATING ALL SORTS OF RUBBISH.

Narrator: AFTER MONTHS OF BRAINSTORMING, THE TEAM HAS DESIGNED WHAT IT HOPES IS A RACCOON-PROOF COLLAR.

Crawshaw: IT CAN'T BE TOO LOOSE.

THEY WILL JUST PULL IT RIGHT OFF.

MacDonald: VERY NICE COLLAR. YOU LOOK LOVELY.

YOU LOOK LOVELY, LITTLE ONE.

Narrator: THESE COLLARS ARE CUTTING EDGE.

THEY HOUSE A MINI HARD DRIVE THAT STORES A WEALTH OF DATA.

AND THEY ALSO TRANSMIT A VHF SIGNAL THAT ALLOWS MARC TO TRACK THE RACCOONS IN THE CITY AND DOWNLOAD THE DATA AS HIS STUDY PROGRESSES.

Crawshaw: MAY I SUGGEST SUZANNE STAYS BEHIND JUST TO KEEP DOGS AND PEOPLE AWAY, AND WE GO AND FIND SOMEBODY ELSE.

MacDonald: A LITTLE BIT WONKY.

Narrator: IN TOTAL, FIVE RACCOONS HAVE BEEN COLLARED FOR THIS TEST STUDY.

Crawshaw: LET'S HAVE A LOOK. WHAT YOU GOT HERE?

IS IT A GIRL? YEAH, IT'S A GIRL.

Narrator: FIVE FOOT SOLDIERS ARE SET FORTH TO GIVE SCIENTISTS A GUIDED TOUR INTO THEIR DAILY LIVES... AND GIVE US A WINDOW INTO A WORLD THAT'S LONG BEEN HIDDEN FROM VIEW.

THE NEWLY RELEASED MOM QUICKLY RETURNS TO HER KITS.

AT THREE WEEKS OLD, THEY ARE MOVING BEYOND THE NEWBORN STAGE AS THEIR EYES AND EARS OPEN TO THE WORLD FOR THE FIRST TIME.

RACCOON MOTHERS RAISE THEIR KITS ALONE, SO THEY PREFER NATAL DENS HIGH UP IN THE TREES, FAR FROM THREATS, INCLUDING MALE RACCOONS, WHO MAY PREY ON THE YOUNG.

[ KITS CALLING ] MacDonald: ANY OF THE ANIMALS THAT SPEND TIME WITH THEIR MOM THROUGH THEIR DEVELOPMENT ARE GENERALLY THOUGHT OF AS BEING SMARTER THAN OTHER ANIMALS.

[ KITS CALLING ] RACCOONS STAY WITH THEIR MOMS, SOMETIMES THROUGHOUT AN ENTIRE YEAR, SO THEY DO HAVE THAT TIME TO GROW, AND IT'S A TIME FOR THEIR BRAIN TO DEVELOP AS WELL.

Narrator: RACCOONS DEVELOP QUICKLY AND ARE ABLE TO ADAPT TO A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT LANDSCAPES.

JUST OFF THE COAST OF NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA, LIES NEWCASTLE ISLAND, A PROVINCIAL PARK THAT'S HOME TO A UNIQUE COMMUNITY OF SAILORS, CAMPERS, AND RACCOONS.

Gehrt: RACCOONS WOULD HAVE TO BE PLACED RIGHT UP THERE AS ONE OF THE MOST ADAPTABLE ANIMALS ON THE PLANET.

THAT'S WHY THEY'RE SO SUCCESSFUL AT QUICKLY ADJUSTING TO NEW AND NOVEL ENVIRONMENTS.

RACCOONS HAVE A HABIT OF USING THEIR FRONT FEET IN TERMS OF FORAGING.

IN FACT, THEY HAVE A VERY STRONG SENSE OF TOUCH.

PART OF THAT IS ACTUALLY AN ADAPTATION FOR SEARCHING FOR FOOD UNDER MUDDY WATER.

[ HORN BLOWS ] Narrator: IT'S A MYTH THAT RACCOONS ALWAYS WASH THEIR FOOD.

WATER SOFTENS DENSE NERVE MESHES IN THE CALLOUSED LAYER OF SKIN ON THEIR FRONT FEET, MAKING THEM UP TO FIVE TIMES MORE SENSITIVE, SO THEY ACT ALMOST LIKE TASTE BUDS, SENDING A RUSH OF INFORMATION TO THEIR BRAINS, ALLOWING THEM TO SEE THE WORLD WITH THEIR FEET, FREEING UP THEIR EYES TO LOOK FOR OTHER THINGS, LIKE PREDATORS OR MORE FOOD.

Gehrt: EVERYONE KNOWS THAT THEY USE THEIR FRONT FEET IN WAYS THAT ALMOST NO OTHER MAMMALS DO.

IT'S NOT A COMMON THING TO HAVE THIS KIND OF SENSE OF TOUCH IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM.

OUTSIDE OF PRIMATES, IT'S HARD TO FIND ANY OTHER EXAMPLES.

Narrator: THE RACCOONS ON THIS ISLAND DEMONSTRATE WHAT SCIENTISTS HAVE LONG BELIEVED -- THAT THERE'S A STRONG LINK BETWEEN AN ANIMAL'S ABILITY TO MANIPULATE OBJECTS AND ITS INTELLIGENCE.

THE 14 CAMPSITES ON THE ISLAND COME WITH LOCK BOXES FOR PROVISIONS.

AND IF CAMPERS FAIL TO USE THEM, THE RACCOONS HERE WILL TEACH THEM TO BE SMARTER.

Gehrt: THEY'RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW CHALLENGES.

IF THEY THINK THAT THERE'S A REWARD -- AND TO A RACCOON THERE'S ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF A REWARD -- THEY'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TRYING TO SOLVE A PROBLEM, TRYING TO OVERCOME A CERTAIN CHALLENGE.

Narrator: BACK IN TORONTO, THE KITS ARE SIX WEEKS OLD AND BIG ENOUGH TO START EXPLORING.

THEY ARE LIKE TODDLERS TAKING THEIR FIRST STEPS, BUT THEIR FIRST STEPS ARE 60 FEET UP IN THE AIR ON A PRECARIOUS SURFACE.

THEIR VIGILANT MOM RARELY LETS HER KITS OUT OF SIGHT.

OVER THE NEXT YEAR, THERE WILL HARDLY BE A MOMENT WHEN SHE'S NOT TEACHING, FEEDING, OR PROTECTING HER YOUNG.

AND AS EVERY MOTHER KNOWS, THIS CAN BE EXHAUSTING.

ALL THIS PLAY IS TRAINING THE KITS FOR THEIR BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET.

THEIR MOM GATHERS THEM UP TO LEAVE THE SECURITY OF THEIR NATAL DEN AND DESCEND 60 FEET HEAD-FIRST INTO THE DARKNESS FOR THEIR FIRST TOUCH ON SOLID GROUND.

Man: ♪ WELL, IT'S SUCH A PECULIAR THING ♪ ♪ WE NEVER KNOW WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS ♪ ♪ AND I NEVER KNEW LOVE MOVES AT SUCH A FRANTIC PACE ♪ ♪ WELL, I'M HEAD OVER HEELS FOR YOU ♪ ♪ FEEL LIKE I'VE GOT THE STOMACH FLU ♪ ♪ AND IF THIS IS HEAVEN, HEAVEN IS A SCARY PLACE ♪ Narrator: A NEW WORLD IS ABOUT TO BEGIN FOR THESE YOUNG RACCOONS.

THEY'LL NOW BE WEANED FROM MOTHER'S MILK AND BEGIN DAILY LESSONS ON HOW TO FIND FOOD ON THEIR OWN.

SO, MOTHER TAKES THEM CLOSER TO THE CITY'S ABUNDANT FOOD SUPPLY.

FIRST, THOUGH, THEY NEED TO FIND A SAFE PLACE TO REST AND RECOVER.

RACCOONS KEEP UP TO 20 DEN SITES AT ANY ONE TIME, HEDGING THEIR BETS IN A WORLD OF RISK.

PROPELLED INTO AN UNFAMILIAR WORLD, THESE KITS HAVE A LOT TO LEARN, AND QUICKLY.

[ SIREN IN DISTANCE ] THEIR MOTHER TEACHES BY EXAMPLE, AND THIS LESSON IS HOW TO COLLAPSE YOUR SPINE.

AS THE CITY WAKES UP, THE LESSON BECOMES MORE URGENT.

SO MOTHER DEMONSTRATES AGAIN.

AFTER AN HOUR, TWO KITS CLAMBER IN.

THREE STRAGGLERS REMAIN OUTSIDE.

FINALLY, A THIRD KIT IS SUCCESSFUL.

BUT AFTER STRUGGLING FOR OVER TWO HOURS, EXHAUSTION IS SETTING IN.

[ DOG BARKING ] [ BARKS ] [ CALLS ] [ DOG BARKING ] [ RACCOON CALLS ] WITH HER LAST KIT OUTSIDE, MOM FACES A HARD DECISION.

[ DOG BARKING ] Child: LIZZIE!

[ GONGS PLAYING ] Narrator: FOR A MILLENNIUM, THE TEMPLES OF JAPAN HAVE SURVIVED WARS, WEATHER, AND THE RAVAGES OF TIME.

NOW THEY'RE UNDER SIEGE BY AN ENEMY THAT IS AS ADORABLE AS IT IS DESTRUCTIVE.

[ MAN CHANTING ] THE MOST PRIZED TEMPLES ARE HIGH IN THE MOUNTAINS ABOVE KYOTO.

HERE, BUDDHIST MONKS PRAY, MEDITATE, AND MATCH WITS WITH RACCOONS ON A DAILY BASIS.

[ MAN SPEAKING JAPANESE ] Interpreter: THIS TEMPLE HAS BEEN PROTECTED BY OUR ANCESTORS FOR OVER 750 YEARS.

IN A MATTER OF A YEAR OR JUST A FEW MONTHS, THE DESTRUCTION BY RACCOONS IS ALMOST UNTHINKABLE.

Narrator: RACCOONS HAVE DAMAGED OVER 80% OF THE TEMPLES HERE, CLAWING AND CHEWING OUT DENS AND ROTTING THE STRUCTURE WITH THEIR FECES AND URINE.

THE MONKS, AT WITS' END, HAVE ENLISTED MAMMALOGIST MIEKO KAWAMICHI TO HELP THEM IN THEIR FIGHT.

[ SPEAKING JAPANESE ] Interpreter: RIGHT NOW, ALL OVER JAPAN, OUR BUILDINGS, FARMS, FIELDS, AND EVEN OUR NATIVE WILD ANIMALS ARE ALL UNDER ATTACK BY RACCOONS.

THE TEMPLES AND SHRINES IN JAPAN HAVE BEEN STANDING FOR OVER ONE THOUSAND YEARS, AND IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO REPLICATE THOSE BUILDINGS.

AND NOW RACCOONS ARE DESTROYING THEM.

Narrator: RACCOONS ARE NOT INDIGENOUS TO JAPAN, OR ANYWHERE EVEN CLOSE TO JAPAN.

BUT THAT HASN'T STOPPED THEM FROM LEAVING THEIR MARK ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

Child: HERE, RASCAL!

[ SINGING IN JAPANESE ] IN THE 1970s, NIPPON ANIMATION CREATED A CARTOON CALLED 'RASCAL THE RACCOON,' BASED ON A NOVEL BY STERLING NORTH.

THE JAPANESE FELL IN LOVE WITH RASCAL AND BEGAN TO IMPORT BABY RACCOONS AS PETS.

AT THE PEAK OF THE CARTOON'S SUCCESS, JAPAN WAS IMPORTING AS MANY AS 1,500 RACCOONS A YEAR FROM NORTH AMERICA.

[ KAWAMICHI SPEAKING JAPANESE ] Interpreter: AFTER A YEAR, THE RACCOONS GROW, AND THEY BECOME VIOLENT TO PEOPLE, BITING AND SCRATCHING.

THE PEOPLE GREW TIRED OF THE RACCOONS AND BEGAN TO DISCARD THEM.

ABOUT THAT TIME, THERE WAS A CARTOON ON TV ABOUT A RACCOON CALLED RASCAL, AND AT THE END OF THE STORY, THERE WAS A SCENE WHERE RASCAL WAS RELEASED TO THE FOREST.

AND THEN PEOPLE WHO WERE WATCHING THIS THOUGHT, 'THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

THE RACCOON SHOULD GO BACK TO THE FOREST.'

Narrator: THOUSANDS OF THESE RACCOONS WERE RELEASED INTO FORESTS NEAR TEMPLES AND SHRINES.

[ KAWAMICHI SPEAKING JAPANESE ] Interpreter: BECAUSE RACCOONS ORIGINALLY LIVED IN THE WOODS IN NORTH AMERICA, MAYBE WHEN THEY CAME TO JAPAN AND SAW THE BUILDINGS, THEY THOUGHT, 'OH, THAT'S A BIG TREE!'

Nakajima, through interpreter: OF ALL THE NATIVE ANIMALS IN JAPAN, NO SINGLE SPECIES HAS CAUSED SUCH ATROCIOUS DAMAGE.

SO WE DEFINITELY NEED A STRATEGY TO TACKLE THE ISSUE NOW.

OTHERWISE, IT'S HOPELESS.

Narrator: THESE MASKED ALIENS HAVE NO NATURAL PREDATORS HERE.

SO THE JAPANESE, INCLUDING THE MONKS, HAVE ADOPTED A ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY.

EVERY YEAR IN JAPAN, OVER 10,000 RACCOONS ARE TRAPPED, THEN KILLED.

[ KAWAMICHI SPEAKING JAPANESE ] Interpreter: IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO GET RID OF ALL THE RACCOONS IN JAPAN NOW.

MY JOB IS TO KILL AS MANY RACCOONS AS POSSIBLE BEFORE THE PROBLEM ESCALATES FURTHER.

UNFORTUNATELY, THAT'S MY MISSION.

Narrator: IN THEIR QUEST TO RID THE ANCIENT TEMPLES OF RACCOONS, THE JAPANESE ARE TURNING TO MODERN GERMAN ENGINEERING.

IN THE EARLY 1930s, A PAIR OF RACCOONS WAS IMPORTED TO GERMANY AND RELEASED IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OUTSIDE BERLIN TO AMUSE HUNTERS.

NOT LONG AFTER, TWO DOZEN RACCOONS ESCAPED FROM A LOCAL FUR FARM.

AND NOW GERMANY, MUCH TO THE CHAGRIN OF ITS EUROPEAN NEIGHBORS, IS OVERRUN WITH RACCOONS.

THE CITY OF KASSEL, IN CENTRAL GERMANY, IS HOME TO THE LARGEST RACCOON POPULATION IN EUROPE, WITH UP TO 100 RACCOONS PER SQUARE KILOMETER.

[ MAN SPEAKING GERMAN ] Interpreter: WHAT WE TRIED TO DO HERE IN KASSEL AT FIRST WAS TO INTENSIVELY HUNT THE RACCOONS.

WE TRIED TO PUSH THEM OUT OF THE TERRITORY.

DESPITE OUR GREAT EFFORTS, THIS DIDN'T WORK.

THAT'S WHEN WE DECIDED TO TAKE A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH.

Narrator: AFTER STUDYING THE MOVEMENTS OF KASSEL'S RACCOONS, SCIENTISTS NOTICED THAT 70% OF THE TIME, A RACCOON CAUSED DAMAGE OR GOT INTO A HOUSE BY CLIMBING UP THE DOWN SPOUT.

BIOLOGISTS FRANK UWE-MICHLER AND BERIT KOEHNEMANN ARE INVESTIGATING RACCOON BEHAVIOR.

MICHLER WAS PART OF THE TEAM THAT INVENTED SOME SIMPLE DEVICES TO OUTWIT KASSEL'S RING-TAILED INVADERS.

[ UWE-MICHLER SPEAKING GERMAN ] Interpreter: YOU HAVE TO KNOW HOW A RACCOON CLIMBS UP ON A DRAIN PIPE.

HE CLIMBS UP BY GRASPING AROUND IT AND CRAWLING UP.

AND IF YOU MOUNT THIS PROTECTION DEVICE ON THE DRAIN PIPE, HE CAN'T GRASP AROUND IT ANY LONGER.

HE CAN'T CLIMB UP FURTHER.

AND THAT'S WHY IT IS OVER AT THIS POINT.

Narrator: SOON AFTER THE SCIENTIST'S DISCOVERY, ALMOST EVERY HOUSE IN KASSEL PUT UP SOME TYPE OF DRAIN PIPE PROTECTION.

Uwe-Michler: AND SOME ARE REALLY EFFECTIVE, REALLY GOOD, AND SOME ARE MORE GOOD FOR RACCOONS TO CLIMB.

Narrator: IN TIME, KASSEL'S WILY RACCOONS FIGURED OUT HOW TO CLIMB OVER THE BEST OF THESE DEVICES.

THAT'S WHEN SCIENTISTS TURNED TO ONE OF GERMANY'S MOST FAMOUS HUNTERS FOR HELP.

FRANK BEEKER BEGAN COLLABORATING WITH SCIENTISTS IN 1996, AND THE RESULT HAS BEEN SOME OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE HOME PROTECTION DEVICES TO DATE.

[ BEEKER SPEAKING GERMAN ] Interpreter: IN THE LAST 10 TO 15 YEARS, THE RACCOONS HAVE ADAPTED VERY FAST TO THE URBAN SPACE.

AND WE ARE NOW DEALING WITH THE EIGHTH OR TENTH GENERATION OF URBAN RACCOONS.

AND THE FIRST THING THEY LEARN IS HOW TO CLIMB UP THE DRAIN PIPE.

Narrator: BEEKER'S YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A HUNTER GIVE HIM INSIGHT INTO HOW A RACCOON MOVES THROUGH THE URBAN LANDSCAPE.

[ SPEAKING GERMAN ] Interpreter: I HAVE TO SEE IT THROUGH THEIR EYES.

I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT THE RACCOON CAN DO.

I HAVE TO THINK LIKE A RACCOON.

[ SPEAKING GERMAN ] Interpreter: A RACCOON CAN, OF COURSE, CLIMB UP HERE LIKE THIS, AND TO PREVENT THAT, I MOUNTED A BLOCKING PIECE UP THERE.

AND THEN HE CAN'T GRASP BEHIND HERE ANY LONGER.

AND I ADDED A PLEXIGLAS PLATE, SO THE CORNER IS NOW PROTECTED, TOO.

THAT'S ESSENTIALLY MY SYSTEM.

[ SPEAKING GERMAN ] Interpreter: IT'S THE SAME AS A HUNT.

IT'S A POWER STRUGGLE TO FIND OUT WHO IS BETTER.

EVERY NOW AND THEN, I HAVE A RACCOON WHO IS EXTREMELY CHALLENGING, AND THEN THE TUG OF WAR BEGINS.

Narrator: BACK IN TORONTO, THE THREE-MONTH-OLD KITS FROM OUR STUDY ARE BEGINNING TO EXPLORE THE WORLD ON THEIR OWN.

♪ LIFE IS SUCH A MYSTERY ♪ ♪ NOW IT'S ALL SO CLEAR TO ME ♪ ♪ A NEW WORLD HAS OPENED UP FOR ME NOW ♪ MacDonald: ANIMAL PLAY LOOKS LIKE IT'S JUST A LOT OF FUN, BUT THERE ARE REALLY IMPORTANT ASPECTS THAT COME OUT OF PLAY.

IT ACTUALLY HELPS THE ANIMAL LEARN HOW THINGS WORK.

THEY TEST OUT THE PHYSICS OF THE WORLD.

THEY LEARN WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO.

♪ YOU CAN SEE IT IN MY FACE ♪ ♪ A NEW WORLD HAS OPENED UP FOR ME NOW ♪ MacDonald: I THINK RACCOONS ARE SMART ENOUGH THAT THEY WOULD FIGURE OUT OUR PATTERNS.

SO THEY WOULD UNDERSTAND THAT, WHEN THE LIGHTS ARE OUT IN THE HOUSE, NOBODY THROWS ANYTHING AT YOU.

I THINK THEY MAY KNOW AS MUCH AS WHEN GARBAGE NIGHT IS, SO THEY GO BACK ON THOSE NIGHTS.

Narrator: RACCOONS ARE HIGHLY OPPORTUNISTIC CREATURES WITH A KEEN SENSE OF SMELL.

THEIR NOSES CAN LEAD THEM TO FOOD, BUT OBTAINING IT MAY REQUIRE OTHER TALENTS.

Iwaniuk: THEY'RE ATTRACTED TOWARDS THE SMELLS.

THAT'S THE INSTINCT PART OF IT.

TRYING TO WORK OUT HOW TO OPEN THESE THINGS IS SORT OF DIFFICULT TO DISCERN HOW MUCH OF THIS IS LEARNING AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS INSTINCTIVE.

[ SIREN IN DISTANCE ] MacDonald: RACCOONS CAN BUILD ON THEIR KNOWLEDGE.

ONCE THEY FIGURE OUT ONE GARBAGE CAN, THEY CAN GENERALIZE TO ANOTHER GARBAGE CAN THAT MIGHT BE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT.

AND THAT MAKES THEM UNBEATABLE.

[ PEOPLE SHOUTING ] Iwaniuk: THE MORE OBSTACLES YOU THROW IN THEIR WAY, IT BECOMES MORE CHALLENGING.

SO IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE THAT BY PROVIDING MORE AND MORE OBSTACLES, WE ARE IN FACT SELECTING FOR SMARTER RACCOONS.

Narrator: AND THEY USE MORE THAN THEIR BRAINS TO WRESTLE WITH A PROBLEM.

Iwaniuk: THEY'RE BASICALLY BUILT LIKE A SUMO WRESTLER.

THEY HAVE THIS REALLY WIDE BEHIND WITH A REALLY LOW CENTER OF GRAVITY, WHICH WOULD ENABLE THEM TO PUSH OVER ITEMS THAT YOU WOULDN'T NORMALLY THINK THAT THEY'D BE ABLE TO PUSH OVER.

IN MANY CASES, I'M SURE, MUCH GREATER THAN WHAT THEIR BODY WEIGHT IS.

THE RACCOONS THAT ARE LEARNING HOW TO SOLVE SOME OF THESE TECHNICAL PROBLEMS FASTER ARE PROBABLY THE ONES THAT ARE REPRODUCING MORE AND THE ONES THAT ARE GOING TO BE MORE LIKELY TO SURVIVE TO THE NEXT GENERATION.

Narrator: RACCOON MOTHERS PASS THEIR TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE ON TO THEIR YOUNG.

TONIGHT'S LESSON -- HOW TO FIND A GOOD MEAL CLOSE TO HOME.

AT FOUR MONTHS, THE KITS FROM OUR STUDY HAVE ALREADY LEARNED THAT GARBAGE BINS CAN BE A PRIME SOURCE FOR FOOD.

UNLIKE THEIR COUNTRY COUSINS, THESE YOUNGSTERS MAY NEVER RECOGNIZE FISH UNLESS IT COMES FROM A CAN.

GIVEN THE CHANCE, RACCOONS WILL EAT ALMOST ANYTHING.

THEY'RE OMNIVORES, AND THAT PUSHES BRAIN DEVELOPMENT, BECAUSE NOT ONLY DO THEY HAVE TO RECOGNIZE A WIDE VARIETY OF FOOD, THEY HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO ACCESS AND EAT IT, TOO.

Iwaniuk: WE THINK A SIMILAR THING MAY ACTUALLY APPLY TO HUMANS, THAT TRYING TO ACQUIRE DIFFERENT FOOD ITEMS, THE EVOLUTION OF TOOLS, ALL OF THESE SORTS OF TECHNICAL INNOVATIONS THAT REVOLVE AROUND OBTAINING FOOD HAVE ACTUALLY DRIVEN THE EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN BRAIN, AND A SIMILAR THING MAY HAVE HAPPENED IN RACCOONS.

Narrator: BUT WHERE YOU CHOOSE TO FIND YOUR FOOD SPEAKS TO A WHOLE DIFFERENT KIND OF SMARTS.

FEW OTHER ANIMALS WOULD DARE POACH THE RICHES OF ZOO EXHIBITS.

MacDonald: RACCOONS ARE VERY CURIOUS, AND I THINK MOST CURIOUS SPECIES ARE ONES THAT CAN AFFORD TO BE CURIOUS.

SO, IF YOU ARE A PREDATOR OR YOU'RE PRETTY HIGH UP ON THE FOOD CHAIN, YOU CAN AFFORD TO GO AND LOOK AT NEW THINGS.

IF YOU ARE A PREY ITEM, LIKE A BUNNY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, YOU DON'T WANT TO BE TOO CURIOUS, BECAUSE YOU MIGHT BE DINNER.

SO I THINK RACCOONS ARE KIND OF HIGH UP THERE, AND THEY CAN AFFORD TO BE CURIOUS.

Gehrt: IN SOME CASES, THEIR INTEREST IN THE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A ZOO MIGHT BE CONSIDERED INTELLIGENCE.

IN OTHER CASES, IT'S FOOLISHNESS, DEPENDING ON WHICH EXHIBIT IT IS.

Narrator: CARS ARE THE NUMBER-ONE CAUSE OF DEATH FOR URBAN RACCOONS.

RACCOONS LEARN TRAFFIC PATTERNS AND HOW TO CROSS ROADS FROM THEIR MOTHER.

THE KEY LESSON IS TO BOOK IT AT A PACE UNSEEN IN THEIR NORMAL TRAVELS.

[ HORN IN DISTANCE ] [ SIREN IN DISTANCE ] IN ORDER TO SAFELY NAVIGATE THROUGH CITIES, RACCOONS HAVE DEVELOPED THEIR OWN SECRET HIGHWAY SYSTEM.

DUPUIS-DESORMEAUX IS TRYING TO GATHER TRAVEL DATA FROM ONE OF HIS FEMALE STUDY RACCOONS, WHO'S SHOWING HER KITS HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE CITY.

TO DOWNLOAD THE DATA, HIS ANTENNA NEEDS AN UNOBSTRUCTED SIGNAL FROM THE RACCOON'S COLLAR FOR AT LEAST 15 SECONDS.

IT'S PROVING MORE DIFFICULT THAN HE EXPECTED.

[ BEEPING ] AT LAST THE MOTHER STAYS IN ONE SPOT AND THE SIGNAL CONNECTS.

Gehrt: HERE WE ARE.

Narrator: IN CHICAGO, RACCOON EXPERT STAN GEHRT'S RESEARCH HAS DEBUNKED THE MYTH THAT RACCOONS ARE SOLITARY, SHOWING THAT YOUNG MALES OFTEN TRAVEL TOGETHER, AND FEMALES DEN TOGETHER.

Gehrt: YOU CAN SEE THERE'S PRETTY MUCH A HIGHWAY GOING THROUGH HERE.

Narrator: BUT ONE THING GERHT HAS YET TO GAIN A FULL PICTURE OF IS THE COMPLEX WAYS RACCOONS COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER.

Gehrt: IT'S DIFFICULT TO DO BECAUSE THEY'RE NOCTURNAL, AND IT'S VERY HARD TO WATCH THEIR BEHAVIOR.

Narrator: GEHRT AND HIS TEAM HAVE SET UP FEEDING STATIONS EQUIPPED WITH NIGHT VISION CAMERAS AND TIMED RELEASES OF CAT FOOD.

Narrator: HE'S STRIVING TO UNDERSTAND HOW INFORMATION ABOUT FOOD RESOURCES IS COMMUNICATED BETWEEN RACCOONS AND HOW THESE COMMUNAL SITES AFFECT BEHAVIOR.

Gehrt: OH, OH, OH... AH!

HE CAME BACK.

LET'S SAY YOU TAKE A COUPLE BAGS OF DOG FOOD AND YOU JUST DUMP IT OUT, IT'S NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE, RIGHT?

THERE'S BEEN MULTIPLE STUDIES, INCLUDING OURS, THAT HAVE SHOWN THAT WITHIN JUST TWO OR THREE DAYS, ALMOST EVERY RACCOON IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD, ALL KNOW ABOUT THAT FOOD SOURCE.

AND THAT'S THE BIG MYSTERY ABOUT RACCOONS.

IF THEY WERE REALLY AS SOLITARY AS EVERYONE THINKS THEY ARE, HOW WOULD THEY ALL FIND THESE THINGS SO QUICKLY?

OH, HERE WE GO.

I DON'T THINK THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO SEE FROM WHERE HE'S AT RIGHT NOW.

OH, YEAH, HE'S TENSE.

I WOULD SAY THOSE ARE NOT REAL CLOSE FRIENDS RIGHT THERE.

NOTICE HOW THEY'RE FACING TOWARD EACH OTHER.

IT'S MAKING ITS MOVE.

NICE INTERACTION GOING ON THERE, TOO... THEY'RE CLEARLY SUBORDINATE.

AS MYSTERIOUS AS THE RACCOONS' SOCIAL SYSTEM HAS BEEN FOR US IN TERMS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIPS TO EACH OTHER, EVEN MORE MYSTERIOUS IS, HOW DO THEY RELATE TO OTHER SPECIES?

THAT'S BASICALLY UNKNOWN AT THIS POINT.

Narrator: GEHRT RECENTLY BEGAN THE FIRST RESEARCH INTO HOW CATS AND RACCOONS INTERACT AROUND COMMUNAL FOOD RESOURCES.

Gehrt: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RACCOONS AND CATS IS REALLY FASCINATING, BECAUSE THAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS NOT HAD A LONG EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY.

SO FAR, IT LOOKS LIKE CATS GENERALLY WILL SIT AND WATCH THE RACCOON, BUT YOU'LL NEVER SEE RACCOONS GIVING UP A FEEDING STATION FOR A CAT.

Narrator: GEHRT HAS DISCOVERED THAT URBAN FOOD SOURCES, SUCH AS GARBAGE OR PET FOOD, BRING TOGETHER A VARIETY OF CREATURES THAT, UNTIL RECENTLY, WOULD RARELY HAVE BEEN IN SUCH CLOSE CONTACT.

THIS INCREASED CONTACT ESCALATES AN ANIMAL'S EXPOSURE TO CONTAGIOUS DISEASES AND CAN CAUSE THE DISEASES TO BECOME MORE ROBUST AND INFECTIOUS.

A RECENT OUTBREAK IN THE DOG POPULATION IN CHICAGO SHOWED HOW FRIGHTENING THIS CAN BE.

SO THESE WERE DOGS THAT WERE VACCINATED AGAINST THE TRADITIONAL STRAIN OF CANINE DISTEMPER, ALL OF A SUDDEN DYING OUT OF NOWHERE.

IT TURNS OUT THAT, MORE THAN LIKELY, THE BEST EXPLANATION FOR THAT IS THAT THAT NEW STRAIN CAME FROM THE RACCOON POPULATION, BECAUSE WE'VE INCREASED THE AMOUNT OF CONTACTS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS, AND THEY'RE BASICALLY TRANSMITTING THIS VIRUS BACK AND FORTH AT A MUCH HIGHER RATE THAT WHAT THEY'RE NORMALLY SUPPOSED TO DO.

Narrator: THE DISEASES RACCOONS CARRY CAN BE TRANSMITTED TO DOGS, HORSES, EVEN HUMANS.

THE MOST DANGEROUS OF THESE IS RACCOON ROUNDWORM.

IT DOESN'T AFFECT RACCOONS, BUT THEY EXCRETE THE PARASITIC WORM IN THEIR FECES.

FOR THOSE EXPOSED TO IT, THIS PARASITE CAN CAUSE NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE OR EVEN DEATH.

Gehrt: RACCOON ROUNDWORM IS A REALLY INTERESTING PARASITE IN THAT THE EGG THAT WE NEED TO BE WORRIED ABOUT, THAT IS WHAT INFECTS US.

IT IS VERY RESISTANT, SO IT'S VERY RESISTANT TO HOT TEMPERATURES, COLD TEMPERATURES, EVEN FREEZING DOESN'T KILL THOSE EGGS.

Narrator: AS CITY LIFE DRAWS US CLOSER TO RACCOONS, IT EXPOSES US MORE TO THE DANGER FROM THESE PARASITIC EGGS, AS THEY LINGER IN RACCOON FECES -- IN OUR ATTICS, GARAGES, AND OUR YARDS.

WHEN WE DUTIFULLY CLEAN UP AFTER RACCOONS, EVERY TIME WE BREATHE, WE'RE AT RISK, BECAUSE ONCE THE EGGS DRY, THEY CAN BECOME AIRBORNE AND RIDE ON DUST PARTICLES.

ANYONE CLEANING UP RACCOON FECES SHOULD WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR, THEN PUT THE FECES AND CLOTHING IN A SECURE TRASH BIN OR, BETTER YET, BURN THEM.

TWO MONTHS HAVE PASSED SINCE THE RADIO COLLARS WENT ON THE RACCOONS.

NOW DUPUIS-DESORMEAUX SITS DOWN TO REVIEW THE DATA FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH PROFESSOR MacDONALD.

Dupuis-Desormeaux: IN TERMS OF ACCURACY, YOU COULD SAY THE DATA IS VERY GOOD.

THIS IS VERY HARD, TO FOLLOW SOMETHING THAT HAS SO MANY PLACES TO HIDE.

IF WE LOOK AT ONE DAY, SO IF WE LOOKED AT, SAY, LET'S START AT 6:00 IN THE MORNING, SO THERE SHE IS, SHE'S IN THE ALLEYWAY AT ARUNDEL.

OR HOW DO YOU SAY IT?

MacDonald: ARUNDEL.

ARUNDEL.

Narrator: EVERY FIVE TO FIFTEEN MINUTES, EACH COLLAR REGISTERS A SIGNAL THAT CAN BE PINPOINTED ON A MAP.

BY JOINING THE POINTS IN A REPRESENTATIVE LINE, THE SCIENTISTS CAN FOLLOW THE DAILY TRAVELS OF THEIR RACCOONS.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE HAS SUCCESSFULLY TRACKED THE EXACT MOVEMENTS OF RACCOONS IN A CITY.

Dupuis-Desormeaux: WHAT I'M SEEING IN THIS DATA IS THAT IT'S A TINY LITTLE AREA, AND WE'VE GOT 1,100 POSITIONS, AND THEY'RE ALL WITHIN A THREE-BLOCK RADIUS, THAT'S IT.

FOR HOW LONG? HOW MANY -- THIS IS FOR... A MONTH AND A HALF -- A MONTH AND A HALF.

OF DATA, AND THEY NEVER MOVE.

THAT'S A REALLY SMALL RANGE.

AND THEY DON'T GO TO THE WATER.

THEY DON'T CROSS ANY OF THE MAJOR STREETS.

MacDonald: SO MAYBE THAT'S WHAT DEFINES THE EDGES OF THEIR TERRITORY.

I DO THINK THAT MAJOR ROADS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT, BECAUSE FOR MOST SPECIES, THE PREDATOR DEFINES WHERE THEY GO.

AND THE ONLY PREDATOR FOR THESE RACCOONS ARE CARS.

AND SO THAT'S THE ONLY THING THEY REALLY HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO, AND IF THEY ARE PAYING ATTENTION TO THAT, THAT'S HOW THEY'RE STAYING ALIVE.

Dupuis-Desormeaux: WELL, THE DATA TO ME JUMPS OUT BY SAYING 'LOOK, WE DON'T CROSS MAJOR STREETS.

'LOOK, WE DON'T NEED A SOURCE OF WATER LIKE A RIVER.

WE DON'T NEED AN ACTUAL WILD AREA.'

SO IT LOOKS LIKE THEY DON'T NEED ANY OF THE WILDNESS.

THEY'RE QUITE HAPPY TO BE THE CITY RACCOONS.

MacDonald: I THOUGHT THEIR TERRITORY WOULD BE A LOT BIGGER THAN THAT.

PERSONALLY, I REALLY THOUGHT THEY WOULD RANGE OVER MORE AREA.

JUST FROM RACCOONS IN MY OWN BACKYARD, I TENDED TO THINK THEY CAME BACK ONCE A WEEK OR SO, SO THEY WERE OFF SOMEWHERE ELSE, BUT IT LOOKS LIKE THEY PROBABLY COME BACK EVERY NIGHT, THEY JUST DON'T MAKE THE SAME NOISE EVERY NIGHT, SO I DON'T KNOW THEY'RE THERE.

BUT, YOU KNOW, I'M QUITE SURPRISED BY THESE DATA.

IT'S REALLY INTERESTING.

YOU KNOW, I'M SURPRISED THAT IT'S NOT BIGGER AS WELL, GIVEN THAT THERE'S SO MANY RACCOONS AND THERE'S SO MUCH FOOD AVAILABLE TO THEM, BUT IT JUST SEEMS THAT THEY DON'T NEED TO GO VERY FAR.

SO I SUSPECT THAT'S WHAT'S GOING ON, BUT WE WON'T KNOW, BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE RACCOONS FROM ADJACENT RANGES, SO -- WELL, WE DO, IF YOU HAVE ONE OF THE FEMALES, ONE OF THE MALES AT BROWNING ARE, AND I CAN DO RIGHT HERE -- MacDonald: I'D LIKE TO SEE ONE WITH BABIES.

Dupuis-Desormeaux: THIS ONE HAS BABIES.

BA-BA-BA!

Dupuis-Desormeaux: FOR THIS PARTICULAR FEMALE, WE FOUND THAT SHE LIKED TO DEN UP IN GARAGES, SHEDS, ALWAYS VERY WELL HIDDEN.

MacDonald: THAT'S REALLY INTERESTING.

LET'S SEE THE OTHER HIGH PARK.

Dupuis-Desormeaux: AND JUST AGAIN, IT'S A VERY SMALL AREA.

MacDonald: VERY SMALL AREA!

TINY AREA!

THEY DON'T EVER -- THEY DON'T EVER GO IN THE PARK.

THERE'S ACTUALLY A POINT OR TWO INSIDE, THERE, WE SEE, RIGHT ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK.

PROBABLY GARBAGE CANS.

YEAH.

THEY REALLY ARE URBAN.

THEY DON'T LIKE THE PARKS AT ALL!

MAYBE THERE IS A MORE DOMINANT ONE THAT HAS THE PARK AND KEEPS THE OTHER ONE OUT.

BUT THERE IS NOT THAT MUCH IN A PARK, COMPARED TO A BACKYARD, I WOULD THINK.

Narrator: THE REVELATION OF THIS STUDY IS THAT RACCOON TERRITORIES ARE SO SMALL, JUST THREE SQUARE BLOCKS ON AVERAGE.

IF YOU MAPPED THEM ACROSS THE CITY, YOU'D SEE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LITTLE DOMAINS.

URBAN RACCOON POPULATIONS HAVE GROWN TWENTY-FOLD IN THE LAST 70 YEARS.

IN THOSE FEW DECADES, RACCOONS HAVE CHANGED MORE THAN DURING THE PREVIOUS 40,000 YEARS.

Gehrt: THE RACCOON IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING.

EVEN THOUGH, PHYSICALLY, YOU WOULDN'T SEE ANY MAJOR CHANGES IN THEM, PHYSIOLOGICALLY, THERE COULD BE CHANGE AS THEY ADJUST TO THAT URBAN LIFESTYLE.

AND SO ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THAT WE NOTICE IS THAT THEIR TEETH DECAY VERY QUICKLY, JUST LIKE OURS DO.

THEY BECOME VERY LAZY AND VERY FAT.

AND SO, IN TERMS OF THEIR HEART, THEIR BLOOD PRESSURE, THAT IS A PRICE THAT THEY'RE GOING TO PAY, JUST LIKE A LOT OF PEOPLE.

Narrator: FOR THE RACCOON FAMILY WE'VE FOLLOWED, AS FOR MANY OF US, THE RICHES AND CONVENIENCE OF CITY LIFE COME AT A PRICE.

ON THE UP SIDE, CITY RACCOONS LIVE LONGER AND BREED MORE SUCCESSFULLY THEIR COUNTRY COUSINS.

Iwaniuk: IT'S POSSIBLE THAT SOME OF THESE CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR THAT YOU SEE BETWEEN RURAL AND URBAN RACCOONS IS CAUSING SOME SORT OF CHANGE IN THE BRAIN.

BUT IF WE LOOK BACK AT THEM IN, SAY, A COUPLE HUNDRED YEARS, WHERE WE HAVE SUFFICIENT GENERATIONS, WE COULD ACTUALLY SEE A VERY, VERY DIFFERENT BRAIN STRUCTURE, BRAIN MORPHOLOGY, BETWEEN THESE URBAN AND RURAL RACCOONS.

Narrator: ONLY TIME WILL TELL THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS THIS MOVE INTO CITIES WILL HAVE ON RACCOONS AND ON THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE SO CLOSELY ALONGSIDE THEM.

MacDonald: I THINK RACCOONS HAVE CHANGED BECAUSE THEY'VE LIVED WITH US IN CITIES, SO I THINK, EVOLUTIONARILY, THEY'RE GETTING TO EXPRESS A LOT OF BEHAVIORS THAT THEY WOULDN'T EXPRESS IN THE WILD.

THEY HAVE THOSE NATURAL ABILITIES ANYWAY, BUT THE CITIES SORT OF LET THOSE ABILITIES FLOWER.

IRONICALLY, BY PROVIDING THEM WITH ALL THE THINGS THAT WE HOPE TO OUTSMART THEM WITH, WE MAY BE BUILDING THE UBER-RACCOON.

SO I THINK THAT IN A FEW GENERATIONS, WE MAY HAVE REALLY, REALLY SMART RACCOONS, AND THEN WE'RE DOOMED.

I THINK THEY'RE JUST GOING TO TAKE OVER.

Gehrt: I WOULDN'T PUT RACCOONS QUITE ON OUR LEVEL, BUT THEY'RE TRYING TO GET THERE.

THEY'RE CATCHING UP.