Ready for a fascinating look at one of your sneakiest, smartest neighbors? With their clever ways, these smarty-pants can show us how to accomplish our goals and transform disappointment into opportunity! As it turns out, we’re making these masked avengers even smarter, and while this may shrink your chances of keeping them out of your garbage, their resiliency is amazingly fun to watch and consider!

Whether you live in the countryside or deep in the city, taking out the trash at night means you run the chance of encountering one of the world’s most curious critters. The raccoon’s unstoppable ability to get into… anything… has driven us to develop some interesting defenses against them. But here’s the thing: with everything we try, we’re actually making them smarter! And in turn, they have a few things to teach us, as well.

“Don’t give up—eventually you’ll get into that trash can.”

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of pulling up the lid of a garbage bin and seeing two shiny eyes looking back up at you from a tiny masked face, then you know our relationship with raccoons is a complicated one. They’re good for a jump scare, but they’re also cute! Plus, you have to hand it to them, they’re immensely clever. And it’s their curiosity that makes them so successful.

Raccoons will explore everything, letting their curiosity lead the way!

They’re unique in this way, as most other animals innately feel a healthy dose of fear. But no, no, no, that’s not the raccoon’s game. They’ll climb onto anything—even ride on the back of a garbage truck—and keep on trying new tactics to get whatever it is that they desire.

It’s in this way that we can afford to pay attention to their efforts. For many of us, when faced with a defeat, would just walk away. But if you acted more like a raccoon, you’d try and try and try again until you make your way into that raccoon-proof trash can!

Take a look as CBS Sunday Morning introduces us to a few raccoon lovers to learn more about their heartwarming quirks, so that your next trip to the garbage can can be all the more wonder-full.

To find more inspiring features from CBS Sunday Morning, make sure you head over to their YouTube channel!

And if you’d like to learn more about those super-sensing raccoon hands, check out this article from our library!

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Raccoons Can See With Their Hands!

How much do you know about this famous neighborhood bandit? They have quite a few interesting tricks that help them survive in our urban worlds!

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Oh, also, Dr. Lynda—the founder of EWC—used to raise orphaned raccoons! Here she is with her little crew of kits – Miko, Suli, and Tada. (Like, “Ta-da!” Lynda says she just had that kind of personality.)

Image: Woman in a white shirt laying down in a woven hammock, smiling, with three baby raccoons laying on her

Dr. Lynda and the babies: Miko, Suli, and Tada!
Source: Dr. Lynda

Two curious creatures learning from each other!

Now, of course, the raccoon isn’t the only creature with amazing curiosity, and they aren’t the only ones learning from others. I mean, just look at us humans!

From the dawn of time, our species has always learned from others. We were inspired to take to the skies by our feathered friends, harness the energy of the sun by our photosynthesizing neighbors, and have even found inspiration in the way a porcupine’s quill is designed to make surgery safer! Just as we can see with today’s raccoons, there is always something to be learned from another species.

The raccoon way of solving problems and learning is much like our own—trial and error, questioning, curiosity, and perseverance can get us really far. And sometimes, it takes looking at how another creature uses the same skills to see how we can tap into them further.

Take these next articles, for example. Each of these tells the tale of how we’ve become smarter by looking at the brilliant, time-tested ways the creatures around us live their lives.

7 minutes

Need to Solve a Problem? Turn to Nature!

The natural world is a remarkable problem solver. So, why aren't we turning to nature to find more answers to our complex problems? Here's how biomimicry is helping us build a better future!

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Meet the Birds Keeping You Safe in Flight!

Did you know that one of the greatest threats to our safety as we board a plane and fly off to our destination is BIRDS!? Luckily, some ingenious airports are turning to one of the world's oldest sports and taking some inspiration from the natural world to keep us safe! 

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Meet the Rescue Dogs Saving the Environment!

Rescue dogs are now becoming conservation superheroes too! Meet the pups getting a new life at the forefront of saving ecosystems, anti-poaching, and amazing conservation efforts.

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As always, stay open to new possibilities! You never know what inspiration will strike the next time you take out the trash.

  • Sam

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  1. CBS Sunday Morning. “Are We Making Raccoons Smarter?” YouTube, 29 Nov. 2020, Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.