It’s probably not a serious raccoon getting into your trash.  Video from a new study suggests that quiet raccoons are better problem solvers.

It’s probably not a serious raccoon getting into your trash. Video from a new study suggests that quiet raccoons are better problem solvers.

A raccoon inside the experimental cubicle.

A raccoon inside the experimental cubicle.Lauren Stanton

  • Calm, passive raccoons are better adapted to urban environments, suggests a study published Thursday.

  • Researchers studied 204 wild raccoons for two years, to test if they could press a button for a reward.

  • The findings could help inform how wildlife managers deal with urban raccoons.

Raccoons love and are busy rummaging through the garbage of the city. Now, researchers say one quality has allowed some raccoons to thrive in cities: how calmly they responded to new situations.

In a study published Thursday in the Journal of Experimental Biology , researchers explored how adaptable these unsettled mammals are. The research team, led by Lauren Stanton from the University of California, Berkeley, tagged 204 wild raccoons living in the city of Laramie, Wyoming, by luring them with pet food between August 2015 and September 2019.

Over two years of observations, the researchers tested whether raccoons could find a raccoon-sized cubicle in their neighborhood with two buttons inside. When pressed, one button released a handful of dog images. The other released nothing. The furry omnivores had initial doubts about the cubicle, the researchers wrote.

A raccoon pressing a button it has learned will reward dog food.

A raccoon pushes a button it has learned will provide a dog food reward.Lauren Stanton

After they learned to climb into the cubicle for treats, researchers changed things up by changing the button that released the edible reward.

Scientists believe that the ability to solve problems in novel situations, using reason and thinking, is especially important for urban wildlife, Stanton said in a press release.

After two years, the researchers found that 27 raccoons were able to visit the cubby and 19 learned which button was the reward. Of those who watched, 17 realized that the reward button had changed.

Interestingly, when Stanton’s team observed the animals’ moods, they found that the least daring raccoons were prepared to operate the treatment delivery mechanism. That “suggests a possible relationship between emotional reactivity and cognitive ability in raccoons,” Stanton said.

Film a raccoon inside the experimental raccoon cubicle, after learning to successfully press the correct button to release a dog food reward.

a raccoon inside the cubicle has learned to press the correct button to release a dog food reward.Lauren Stanton

According to researchers, the youngest raccoons seemed eager to enter and explore the cubby. But when researchers switched the buttons, adult raccoons were better prepared to overcome the challenge. That could be because the cognitive abilities of young raccoons are less developed, but the sample size was too small to draw any conclusions, the researchers wrote in the study.

The cubicle itself was a happening place for raccoons, with several of them climbing in and bumping into each other at the same time.

A skunk inspects the cubicle.

A skunk examines the cubicle.Lauren Stanton

During the observation period, the cubicle camera captured other furry visitors, including four striped skunks, similar to the one in the video above.

Stanton and her team hope her findings can better inform wildlife managers dealing with urban raccoons, because the quietest ones—not the boldest ones—may cause trouble.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.