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Do wild raccoons (Procyon lotor) use tools?

Morton, F. Blake



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,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 12, 2020
Online Publication Date Oct 22, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Oct 22, 2020
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Animal Cognition
Print ISSN 1435-9448
Electronic ISSN 1435-9456
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Innovation; Technical intelligence; Cognitive evolution; Culture; Physical cognition; Opportunity
Public URL
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Published article (924 Kb)

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© The Author 2020. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

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