Since the early 1900s, studies in comparative psychology have found that raccoon intelligence approaches, in certain areas, that of monkeys. They have a great capacity for abstract problem solving and – as any farmer with a raccoon problem can tell you – for picking locks. See links below for more information.
Yes, raccoons are smart. Sometimes too smart for their own good. One zookeeper (rehabilitating injured raccoons) said that the raccoons figured out how to lock her out of their caged area, but they stopped when they realized that also meant their food was locked out.
An ice cream store owner said she locked up some treats that a raccoon “regular” liked, and he found out how to get into the barred cupboard.
Raccoons appear to be smart because they are adept at avoiding predators. They leave the ground via tree and return to the ground later or wade through streams to avoid being detected by scent. It may also run along fences, something most predators cannot do. This appears to be “smart thinking”, but scientists attribute this mostly to instinct. They state that historically, raccoons evolved to react to sound and odor as stimuli and learned to minimize their own. Thus, they can do these things well. Learning, however, seems to be less their strong suit as they have never learned to react to sudden changes in light as stimuli, explaining why they don’t run when you shine a flashlight in their eyes.
Raccoon are intelligent – it is especially displayed in their advanced problem solving skills. Many studies have been done on this species of mammal, but there was more focus devoted to this during the early 1900s. In a study conducted by ethologist H.B. Davis in 1908, raccoons were able to open 11 out of 13 complex locks in less than ten tries. He concluded that their learning speed was comparable to that of certain species of ape, like the Rhesus monkey. They also have a good memory, and can retain what they have learned for years.
Raccoons are often underestimated – their intelligence and cunning is remarkable in some instances. “Door knobs that can be turned – without locks – are no obstacle for a raccoon to open.” Aroughcun, the name given to them by Native Americans, meant “he who scratches with his hands.” Humans are constantly amazed at their ability to grasp complex tasks and even comprehend multiple stimuli and subsequently determine the best plan of action.
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