We here at Bored Panda salute our adorable and wily cousins, the trash pandas, with this awesome list. But you probably know these animals by their proper names, dear Readers—raccoons. Check out the hilarious and cute pics of raccoons we’ve collected for your enjoyment and don’t forget to upvote your fave photos as you scroll on down. When you’re done, have a look at our earlier post about adorable raccoons right here.
Bored Panda reached out to Dr. Suzanne MacDonald from the Department of Psychology at York University, in Toronto, who has done research with raccoons and who was kind enough to tell us about these interesting animals.
She pointed out that the best way to enjoy the company of raccoons if they ever show up near your house is to practice social distancing. “Give them space, don’t feed them, and just enjoy their antics from a safe distance. If you feed them, they will come—and they will tell their friends. You will regret it, trust me!” she said. Read on for our full interview with Dr. MacDonald.
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Dr. MacDonald told us more about her raccoon-research and how it showed that urban raccoons were much more likely than rural raccoons to approach and figure out problems involving hidden food. What’s more, urban raccoons came up with more strategies and spent more time figuring things out.
“I wouldn’t say that makes them ‘smarter,’ but it certainly does make urban raccoons more likely to be able to open trash cans and get into our attics than rural raccoons. I can’t say whether these differences are innate or whether urban raccoons learn how to do those things, so the next step is to compare baby urban and rural raccoons on the same tasks to see if the differences exist from birth. This is easier said than done so it is taking several years to collect enough data,” she went into detail about her research.
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But just how smart are raccoons and how do they compare to human beings and animals like dogs? Well, Dr. MacDonald stressed the fact that it’s very difficult to compare things across species, especially when we’re talking about something as hard to define as intelligence.
“A researcher over 100 years ago did a memory test to compare dogs, monkeys, raccoons, and children, and he claimed that the raccoons and kids were the smartest! Certainly, raccoons are not evil geniuses, and they don’t compare with humans in terms of brainpower. Dogs are pretty special, too, because they evolved with humans and so are exquisitely tuned to human behavior. Raccoons have their own kind of smarts, not really the same as any other animal,” she said.
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Raccoons are curious, have very dexterous, nimble hands, and can squish their spines down to get into small spaces. So trash pandas (at least the urban variety) are able to open fridge doors and Tupperware, unzip tents, and even turn doorknobs. Though the latter takes a lot of effort, raccoons seem to have one-upped aliens from movies who seem baffled by doorknobs.
Why would anyone call raccoons trash pandas? Like a lot of things, it all started with an accurate but wayward comment on social media. Way back in 2014, redditor CarlPeligro left a comment stating "Raccoons = trash pandas" and it all snowballed from there.
When you think about it, the name fits, doesn’t it? Raccoons really do love going through trashcans. Meanwhile, they look a lot like black and white versions of red pandas (just keep in mind that they’re not actually related to panda bears despite their name), and voilà, you’ve got yourself a very strong reason to call raccoons trash pandas. We just hope they take it as a compliment of their skills. Trashcans are hard to open when you're as small as a raccoon, after all.