A raccoon inside the experimental cubicle.

Calm, passive raccoons adapt better to city environments, a study published Thursday suggests.
Researchers studied 204 wild raccoons for two years, to test whether they could push a button for a reward.
The results could help inform how wildlife managers deal with urban raccoons.

Raccoons are beloved and bemoaned for rummaging through city garbage. Now, researchers say one quality has allowed certain raccoons 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 mischievous 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, researchers tested whether raccoons were able to locate a raccoon-sized cubicle in their neighborhood with two buttons inside it. When pressed, one button released a handful of dog treats. The other released nothing. The furry omnivores had initial misgivings about the cubicle, researchers wrote.

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

After learning to climb into the cubicle for treats, researchers switched things up by changing which button released the edible reward. 

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

After two years, researchers found that 27 raccoons got the hang of visiting the cubicle and 19 figured out which button was a reward. Of those observed, 17 realized that the reward button had been changed.

Interestingly, when Stanton’s team observed the animals’ temperaments, they found that the least bold raccoons were best prepared to operate the treat-delivering …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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