Several years ago I went camping at the Myakka River State Park. After a campfire dinner we took a walk down to the river to look at the stars and watch for gators. When we returned to our seats around the campfire we were showered with garbage! In the short time we were gone we had been raided by one of the locals, a Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor), who had grabbed our garbage and dragged it up into the safety of an oak. There it sat eating our leftovers and hurling bun wrappers and bean cans at us. Not very smart.
I took an airboat ride in the Everglades a few years back. Raccoons live on and around the islands and take advantage of the tides where they hunt for crabs, eggs and whatever else they may find. The boat captain pulled up to a mangrove island and pointed out a raccoon on the shore. “There’s plenty to eat here, but for some reason this one is always here every day so I feed him marshmallows.” Not very smart.
On the boardwalk at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary two women noticed a raccoon sitting in the water. One explained that they only live around dumpsters. The other nervously suggested it might be rabid and they should leave. Not very smart.
They walked off and the mother and the rest of the raccoon clan peeked out and continued poking and prodding the mud for invertebrates and other snacks. They were healthy raccoons. They were just in their natural environment.
At a local Florida beach, a teenager watched a raccoon climb a garbage can, lift the lid and pull out the garbage he had just placed in it. Incredulous, he turned to a gathering crowd and explained he had put the lid on it and doesn’t know how the raccoon did it. Not very smart.
Raccoons are found across North America. They’re adaptable, versatile, intelligent creatures who despite the reputation for carrying rabies as well as raiding our garbage cans are doing what any other species is doing. Surviving. As omnivores they have a full menu to choose from plus they have the dexterity, agility and intelligence to adapt to just about any environment.
In other words – pretty smart.