Readers of this blog know that animals are constantly taking advantage of our good nature and our foolishly positive attitude towards them. It should be no surprise that they're not above taking advantage of our troubles, as well. In Chicago, the home foreclosure crisis has turned out to be a boon for raccoons, who have moved into abandoned properties.
This would be all well and good if they were responsible tenants, making roof repairs and mowing the lawn, but they turn out to be the sort that you don't want living next door. Although comments that they are "orangutan-sized" are surely exaggerated, they're said to be bigger and bolder than ever before, and they don't stick to the vacant properties, either. One terrorized neighbor reported that they invaded her home:
“I came down the hallway, went into my bedroom and barricaded myself until morning because I know they’re nocturnal. The next morning, I went into the kitchen. I had the window up, but I have bars on my window. He or she had clawed the screen and squeezed through the bars in the kitchen. There were some corn curls in a bag on the counter. That was all over the floor [along with] some dry macaroni.
The raccoons keep bad company - other squatters in the vacant homes include drug dealers - and a city administrator says that now that they've learned to live in our houses, these big bad furballs are here to stay.
“It’s almost impossible to cull the raccoon population because nature abhors a vacuum. If you remove the raccoons, something else is going to move in. It might be skunks. It might be raccoons from elsewhere. As long as the habitat is good for them to live in, they’re going to keep moving back in.”
Raccoons aren't the only animals that are evolving as a result of living alongside humans. One recent study demonstrated that pet rodents are smarter than their wild counterparts.
After seeing what becomes of raccoons living a civilized life in our houses, I think we need to reconsider our breeding strategies. Do we really want our domestic animals to be more intelligent? Are we sure we can stand the competition?
Detail of photo of raccoon home invasion by Flickr user Pip R. Lagenta.