Being able to make and use tools was once considered to be an evolutionary hallmark of our species, but has since been documented in other animals. However, for reasons that remain unclear, not all species naturally use tools. Racoons (Procyon lotor) are generalist carnivores that possess many of the physical, cognitive, and behavioural characteristics linked to tool use in other species (e.g. manual dexterity, tactile exploration, relatively large brains, extractive foraging, and sociality). Although raccoons have not been observed using tools outside of experimental captive conditions, wild data involving objective psychometric tests are needed. The current study administered a tool-related task to a wild population of raccoons from 20 locations within the Croatan National Forest, USA. The task required participants to use a stick to extract food from a pipe. To facilitate interpretations of their performances on the task, data were obtained on natural tool availability at the field site and participants’ mode of exploring the novel task. None of the participants solved the task despite natural sticks (suitable for solving the task) being widely available across testing locations. Participants were equally likely to smell versus handle novel sticks, which were provided at testing platforms. Limited tactile exploration, but not tool availability, could be at least one factor that reduces these raccoons’ opportunities to interact with and learn about novel tools like sticks.
Morton, F. B. (2020). Do wild raccoons (Procyon lotor) use tools?. Animal Cognition, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01430-y