It’s probably not a bold raccoon ending up in your trash.  Video from a new study suggests that calm raccoons are better problem solvers.

It’s probably not a bold raccoon ending up in your trash. Video from a new study suggests that calm raccoons are better problem solvers.

A raccoon inside the experimental booth.

A raccoon inside the experimental booth.Lauren Stanton

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

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

  • The results may help inform how wildlife managers manage urban raccoons.

Raccoons are loved and deplored for rummaging through city rubbish. Now researchers say that one quality has made certain raccoons thrive in cities: how calmly they reacted to new situations.

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

During two years of observations, researchers tested whether raccoons were able to find a cubicle-sized raccoon in the 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 concerns about the enclosure, researchers wrote.

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

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

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

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

After two years, the researchers found that 27 raccoons got the hang of visiting the cubicle and 19 found 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-dispensing mechanism. That “suggests a potential relationship between emotional reactivity and cognitive ability in raccoons,” Stanton said.

Footage of a raccoon inside the raccoon experimental enclosure, after learning to press the correct button to release a dog food reward.

A raccoon inside the cubicle after learning to press the correct button to release a dog food reward.Lauren Stanton

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

The cubicle itself became a happening place for raccoons, where several of them simultaneously climbed in and bumped into each other.

A skunk exploring the cubicle.

A skunk explores the cubicle.Lauren Stanton

Throughout the observation period, the cabin camera captured other furry visitors, including four striped skunks, like the one in the video above.

Stanton and her team hope her results can better inform wildlife managers working with urban raccoons, as the quietest — not the boldest — may be the most likely to cause trouble.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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