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Fascinating documentary about how raccoons are evolving in the city.

TV Review: Nature: Raccoon Nation

As a native of the Pacific Northwest, I have come across my fair share of raccoons. The occasional story of them attacking dogs, and even (rarely) people are not necessarily news – just an unfortunate fact of life. Or so I thought before watching the new Nature documentary Raccoon Nation.

Raccoons are fairly large, and have vicious looking claws, so most people steer clear of them – just instinctually. The fact that they are nocturnal contributes to the perfectly reasonable attitude that they are not really much of a “threat” to most people. As much as humans have changed the world with the destruction of natural habitats through the building of cities and such, we have pushed wildlife further and further out. Rodents such as mice, rats, and moles are still around, but nobody really considers them much of a threat. I had always put raccoons in pretty much the same category.

Raccoon Nation has completely disabused me of this notion. The one-hour program presents some fascinating footage of these critters, and how they are evolving. “Evolving” is in no way a randomly chosen term for what is going on in the “Raccoon Nation.” Towards the end of the program, the almost unbelievable claim is made that raccoons have changed more in the past 70 years than they have in the previous 40,000 years.

Based on the evidence presented, this theory seems more than plausible. Rather than threatening the species, the building of cities has seemingly advanced their survival skills to an astonishing degree.

One of the fascinating discoveries this program shows is just how small a territory raccoons occupy. The previous thought was that they were generally “on the move,” and did not stay in one place for long. Not so. This discovery came by micro-chipping with GPS devices five raccoons. Then their movements were tracked. The results were surprising to say the least. All five of the tracked ‘coons basically roamed a three-square block area – that was their home territory in the big city.

Nature is now in its 30th season, which is quite an achievement in itself. Raccoon Nation will air on most PBS stations February 8, 2012. Afterwards it can be viewed online at www.PBS.com. While not to diminish any of the previous episodes of this wonderful series, Raccoon Nation is not only an outstanding program, but a very thought-provoking one as well. That old saying “Truth is stranger than fiction,” certainly applies here. This program is always worth watching, but Raccoon Nation is something special – and highly recommended.

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