Raccoons Living in Cities


A raccoon explores old buildings
Photo by Gary Robertson via Flickr

Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at an intelligent and difficult animal - the Raccoon! This interesting animal adapts easily and now causes problems around the world.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Colin Lowther.

Voice 2 

And I'm Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It is the middle of the night. All the houses are dark. It is very quiet. Most people and animals are sleeping. Near one house, there is a large, plastic waste can. It is full of garbage and food waste. A long rope and small hook hold it closed. This rope and hook help to keep animals out.

Voice 2 

Suddenly, a small animal runs to the waste can. It has short, brown hair and a long tail. The animal climbs the side of the can. It reaches out its arm, and puts its small fingers around the hook. The animal pulls on the hook. The hook becomes loose. The animal pulls harder, and the hook comes off the can. The can is open. The animal chooses food it likes and begins to eat.

Voice 1 

This intelligent, difficult animal is a raccoon. Raccoons are native to North America. But they have spread to many other places in the world. There, they cause problems for people, buildings, and the environment. Today's Spotlight is on raccoons.

Voice 2 

From a far distance, raccoons may appear to be large cats. But raccoons are very different from cats. Raccoons have dark circles around their eyes. These circles look like a mask over their eyes. On television programs, criminals sometimes wear dark masks like these. So some people say that the circles make raccoons look like criminals wearing masks.

Voice 1 

Raccoons also have very sensitive hands, or paws. These sensitive paws help raccoons learn by touching. Raccoons can decide if something is good to eat just by holding it. Raccoons can even use water to make their paws more sensitive. They often put things in water to learn more about them. Because of this, raccoons almost always live near water. And in some places, raccoons are called wash bears. This is because they look like they are washing their food.

Voice 2 

Raccoons are ancient animals. Thousands of years ago, most raccoons lived in warm climates, far away from humans. They lived near rivers and large forests. But humans destroyed many of the forests where raccoons lived. Raccoons are very intelligent, so they began to change.  They learned to live near humans. Today, most raccoons live in large cities.

Voice 1 

Living in cities has been good for raccoons. In the wild, many other animals hunt raccoons. But most wild animals are not able to live in cities. So in the city, raccoons do not have many natural enemies.

Voice 2 

Cities also provide raccoons with food. Raccoons and humans are both omnivores. That is, their diet includes meat and plants. City raccoons have changed their diet to be similar to a human diet. Most of their food comes from human food waste. And cities provide a large supply of food waste.

Voice 1 

In North America, people have lived with raccoons for hundreds of years. People there know how to deal with the problems raccoons can cause. But raccoons have recently moved to other countries. In these countries, raccoon problems are more difficult to deal with.

Voice 2 

In the 1930s farmers brought raccoons to Germany. They kept them on their farms for fur and meat. However, some of these raccoons escaped. Soon, there were hundreds of wild raccoons in Germany. Then there were thousands. Today, more than one million wild raccoons live in the forests and cities of Germany.

Voice 1 

This creates problems for people living in German cities. As raccoons search for food in cities, they leave their waste behind. This raccoon waste carries dangerous diseases. If people touch raccoon waste, they can become infected.

Voice 2 

Raccoons also damage buildings and homes as they search for food. With their paws, raccoons make holes in walls. They use their teeth to chew wires. And they often spread food waste to places where it is not supposed to be.

Voice 1 

German scientists have tried to fix their raccoon problem. They tried killing as many raccoons as possible. But this did not help. So they studied raccoons' movement. They found that most raccoons damage buildings by climbing a water pipe.

Voice 2 

Frank Beeker is a famous German hunter. He helped German scientists create a special protection device. This device stops raccoons from climbing up water pipes. In the documentary film, "Raccoon Nation," he said,

Voice 3 

"Raccoons have learned to live in cities very quickly.  The first thing they learned was how to climb up the water pipe. But with this device, raccoons cannot climb up any longer. Stopping these raccoons is the same as a hunt. It is a power struggle to find out who is better, me or the raccoon. Sometimes I find a raccoon that is very intelligent. And I must find a new way to stop it."

Voice 1 

In 1977, people also brought raccoons to Japan. But they did not bring these raccoons for their fur or meat. There was a popular children's television show in Japan called Araiguma Rasukaru. This show was about a young boy named Sterling North. Sterling kept a raccoon as a pet. Because of the show, many Japanese people wanted their own raccoons. So they paid to have young raccoons brought from North America to Japan.

Voice 2 

During the final Araiguma Rasukaru television show, Sterling North released his raccoon into the forest. He let his raccoon return to live alone as a wild animal. Many of the Japanese families who owned wild raccoons decided to do the same thing. They released thousands of raccoons into the forests of Japan. These raccoons spread quickly across the country. Today, millions of raccoons live in Japan.

Voice 1 

Like in Germany, these raccoons in Japan cause many problems. They ruin crops like corn, soybeans, rice, and other foods that are very important in Japan. They damage and destroy buildings. Racoons have even destroyed some ancient Buddhist temples and shrines.

Voice 2 

Because of these problems, Japan considers raccoons an invasive species. And the government has tried to kill these raccoons to stop the problem. Japanese hunters and scientists trap and kill over 10,000 raccoons each year. However, raccoons continue to spread faster than the Japanese government can hunt them. For the people of Japan, raccoons are still a very serious problem.

Voice 1 

Are there raccoons where you live? If so, how have they affected your environment? Can you think of any ways to stop the problems they cause? You can email us your thoughts at radio@radioenglish.net.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Ryan Geertsma. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can hear this program again, and read it, on the Internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, "Raccoons Living In Cities."

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Copyright 2016 by SpotlightEnglish.com. All rights reserved. No portion of Spotlight audio, video, and/or scripts shall be used without express written permission.

Question:

Do you have a pet? If you do, what kind? Is it a good animal for a pet? If you do not have a pet, would you like to have one?

Comments


Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 07, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Wednesday 07, September 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Colin Lowther, Ryan Geertsma, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Yes, I do. They are felines. So, I have three cats as pets. My cat in grey color is called Fred, my cat in white color is called Frederico, and the last one in black color is called Francisco.
Yes, felines are great animals as pets. They are intelligent, friendly and they like to sleep during the whole day. When I leave from home to work, they do a crying sound meow to me. So, I say to them, do not worry! Your friend is going to work at the hospital but I am going to return at night.
I would like to have a raccoon as a pet. Here in Brazil we have no raccoon.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on September 07, 2016

In fact, I don’t know the Raccoons or saw it directly maybe because it were not living in my country ( Yemen) or the places where I lived but of course I watched it on TV and read about it.
I think that there one way to stop the problems the Raccoons cause it is be by moved it to forests and keep the forests in peace for them.
In fact also, I don’t have a pet but I like dogs. So maybe one day I’ll getting one dog when I can stability and can feed it, who knew?
God bless you