We’re all accustomed to raccoons, those little furry bandits that get inside our backyards and topple over our trash cans at the night, in search of yummy treats. And yet, while we’re all familiar with the raccoon basics, you’ll find, that most of us know surprisingly little about these bandits with their peculiar paws.

So today, we aim to change that. Rather than talk about raccoon removal or dangers, we thought we’d share some interesting raccoon facts with you.

1. Raccoons are way smarter than you think.

It’s a human instinct to assume that any creature who’d rummage through the garbage can’t be all that clever. You’ll be surprised to find that’s not the case for raccoons, though. In recent years, scientists have been taking a real interest in raccoons and learned, surprisingly, that raccoons are actually a lot smarter than we assume.

In studies that tested their memory and their thinking, raccoons were shown to be capable of remembering complex schemes for extended periods of time. Not only that, but raccoons ranked below monkeys in an intelligence test who, in turn, rank just below humans.

2. They’re named for their unusual paws.

You may be familiar with the peculiar paws of raccoons, those long fingers with the sharp claws. But did you know that’s actually where the word “raccoon” comes from? Well, sort of.

The term “raccoon” actually comes from an old Powhatan (an indigenous people from North Virginia) word that translated as “animal that scratches with its hands”. In other languages, the raccoon is associated with some type of bear (the German word for raccoon, for instance, basically translates as “wash bear”).

3. Raccoons have complex, well-developed communication skills.

Most homeowners will be familiar with the chattering of raccoons during the nighttime (which can be quite frightening), but few distinguish between the many noises that raccoons are capable of.

While it might all sound the same to you, raccoons actually know over 200 different sounds, including everything from crying to chirping, to screaming, to mewing, hissing, and growling. They use this complex system of sounds to communicate with one another.

4. Alaska is the only place in the US that is raccoon-less.

While raccoons are native to a whopping 49 states (making them one of the most widespread, common types of yard pests), there is one state that’s notably raccoon-free. Alaska. While people have, throughout the years, tried to bring raccoons into Alaska, the raccoon remains a non-native species there. Visit pestwildlife.com to learn more about the raccoon's habitat.

5. Some people keep them as pets.

You’d be surprised how many times wildlife removal companies like Complete Wildlife Removal Wyoming are called about someone’s pet raccoon. At a quick glance, it doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea - raccoons are very clever and can be quite affectionate and playful creatures.

However, experts discourage such notions. Because raccoons are wild animals at heart, they can be wildly unpredictable and can turn aggressive quickly. Not only that, but raccoons carry a host of serious diseases and bacteria, so maybe that’s not what you want sleeping in your room at night!

6. They’re excellent athletes.

The vast majority of a raccoon’s life is spent, understandably, searching for food. Over time, they’ve developed excellent running skills (they can reach up to 15 miles an hour), in order to help them in their search for edibles. Not only that, but raccoons are also efficient and skilled climbers, maintaining their speed and dexterity as they ascend high up into trees, chasing prey.

Last but not least, raccoons have also learned how to swim, in order to diversify their hunting grounds.

7. Their dark “bandit” mask actually has a practical use.

If you thought the distinctive, “bandit”-like black markings on a raccoon’s face was just for show, think again. In fact, that black mask is used to absorb incoming light (kind of like the black bands that athletes wear under or around their eyes). This helps reduce glare and allows raccoons to see more clearly.

Since raccoons are mostly nocturnal, these bands help improve the contrast in their surroundings, by reducing peripheral light. And since raccoons are big fans of the city, there’s a lot of light, even during the nighttime!