It's time to start rethinking your food storage techniques while camping in bear country.
In the first ever study of its kind, researchers at Washington State University are trying to find out if bears make and use tools. The findings of their study may surprise you.
One female bear in the test proved to researchers that she was capable of manipulating an inanimate object to reach a treat. That fits the definition of tool use according to scientists.
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"While it's generally accepted that grizzly bears are intelligent creatures, until now no scientific research had been conducted on their problem-solving skills," said WSU veterinary biologist Lynne Nelson, who is overseeing the study.
The study is taking place at the University's Bear Research Education and Conservation Center and includes eight resident bears.
The bears, five females and three males, are tasked with reaching a donut that is hanging just out of their reach.
In the first phase of the test, a stump is placed below the dangling treat and the bears must stand on the stump in order to reach the donut. Once each bear has accomplished that feat, the researchers turn the stump on its side near the donut. The bears must then flip the stump back over in place underneath the donut.
So far, one bear, a 9-year-old female named Kio, has accomplished that feat.
"She manipulates an inanimate object in several steps to help her achieve a goal, which in this case is to obtain food," said Nelson. "This fits the definition of tool use."
The goal in determining whether or not bears have the brain power to use tools is to better understand their thinking abilities. Having a clear picture of how bears think can help lead to better strategies for preventing bear-human conflict.
"By better understanding their cognitive abilities, we can help reduce encounters that can turn deadly for bears and humans alike," according to WSU veterinary student Alex Waroff, who is assisting in the study.
A complete scientific conclusion cannot be reached by the current study results. However, the bears in the study are showing scientists that they may be even smarter than humans previously thought.
For more information on this study, go here.
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Did this information cause you to change how you think about bears? If so, how? Let us know in the comments section below!