Our Beautiful Raccoons

How to make your Instagram more habitable with our primarily nocturnal friends.

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/racc.dad/ Icon: Jack Koloskus
net positive
Net Positive

Welcome to Net Positive, a series about nice places and things on the world wide web.

Most people I know don’t like Instagram because it functions mostly as an app for nonalcoholic cocktail ads and 10-slide tributes to someone’s boyfriend on his birthday. I agree that it sucks for this reason (among others). But I’d like to invite you to improve your conditions somewhat, and to make your Instagram destination a bit more pleasant for the 40 hours you waste there every day being mad. All it will take is a little help from our sweet, primarily nocturnal friends: the raccoons.

Most of what I see on Instagram is raccoons. That’s actually a lie; most of what I see on Instagram is rescue dogs, second-most is my cousins, and third-most is Gilmore Girls fan accounts, but fourth-most is maybe raccoons. And I feel confident saying that my Instagram habitat is more enjoyable than most for this reason.

Raccoons are big on Instagram, likely because of their sweetie cute faces and little sweetie hands. I tend to prefer the generalized raccoon accounts like @raccoondailyfun to the specific ones like @raccoon.tema (arguably the most famous raccoon on Instagram), because ethically I prefer social media photo theft over the more complicated moral issue of using an animal under your care for social media gain, and because when it comes to raccoons I like variety. But I also really like @racc.dad, run by a guy who is (allegedly) certified to rehabilitate injured or abandoned raccoons.

The primary focus of the @racc.dad account right now is a baby raccoon @racc.dad has taken under his care and named Nashville, or Nash. Nash has a sad story — he was born in a landscape pipe that was transported to a job site a few states away; his family was killed in the process, and he sustained a head injury — but with the help of a veterinarian and another rehabber who took him in before @racc.dad, he seems to be doing very well. And he is so fucking cute, look at this:

I love you, Nash!!!

One of the best things about raccoon Instagram is the knowledge that raccoons don’t only live in our phones — they live among us. It’s not like elephant Instagram, or NASA Instagram. As a Brooklyn resident, I’m probably not going to be around elephants, whom I love, or go to space, which frightens me. But two apartments ago, raccoons walked around my porch every night, and that was a real joy. One apartment ago, they lived in the building’s ceilings and walls and basement. My neighbors were not as pleased about this as I was, nor was my dog, who is terrified of raccoons unless he’s separated from them by a wall and then he’s very tough about it, but I loved it. It was like living among little celebrities. Once I saw a whole little family of them in the basement. And another time I saw a bunch behind the building, chittering loudly. Now I sometimes hear them outside at night, at my current apartment, chittering by the trash cans. I can’t believe my luck.

Obviously a negative function of the Instagram popularity of raccoons is that seeing people keep raccoons as pets, or rehab them, can give people the idea that they should keep them as pets, or attempt to rehab them. As the New York Times pointed out in 2019, this is a bad idea, and please don’t do it. Involve a certified wildlife rehabilitator if that seems necessary. DON’T “adopt” a raccoon from outside. You don’t know how to take care of a raccoon, and the vet you take your dog to probably doesn’t, either. I know it’s hard not to though, because look:

It’s odd and sad to me that raccoons are (or that any animal is) considered a pest, not that we treat the animals we don’t think of as pests with any less cruelty. But if there is something to be gained from raccoon Instagram beyond the ability to look at cute photos of raccoons, I think it’s that it might at least soften some hearts to the life of the raccoon. They’re our sweet Earth brethren, not just a trash-related annoyance. It’s so nice that we get to share the world with a creature like the raccoon.

Even if we also have to share it with your friend’s boyfriend, who, by the way, would love for you to swing by his Instagram page and wish him a happy birthday in the comments.