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Old 08-05-2008, 10:59 PM
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How smart are raccoons?

Inspired by the poop thread.

How intelligent are raccoons? They seem curious. They have little hands with which they're very dextrous. But most of the dead things I see in the road are raccoons. They don't seem to learn from the mistakes of others of their kind.
Old 08-05-2008, 11:18 PM
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Raccoons are generally solitary animals; you may see them in groups at your garbage cans, but that's because that's where the food is. So in order for them to learn about cars, they'd have to observe other raccoons being smooshed. But if they're solitary, how they gonna do that? Along the lines of "If a tree falls in the forest...", if a raccoon is hit by a car, but no other raccoon observes it, does it count as an object lesson?

Around here, squirrels are the most numerous roadkill, followed by cats, then possums.

So I don't think that "number of dead raccoons observed as roadkill" really counts as a data point in the debate about raccoon intelligence.
Old 08-05-2008, 11:26 PM
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I can tell you this: My friend Sandy was coming back from somewhere through Berkeley with a tall stack of pies on the back of his bike. He was accosted by a group of large adult male raccoons. They knocked his bike over, & mugged him for half of the pies. True story.

At least they left him half.

I myself once saw a female raccoon climb up out of the sewer, pursued by three males. Right in front of the porch where I stood, she stood up on her hind legs, and snarled ferociously. The males actually backed off. My friend whose porch it was told me that she had a litter of babies under the porch.

Don't forget, frequent-roadkill status might involve things like poor vision (or poor day-vision), the distractions of mating season, desperation because of hunger or pursuit or babies, etc. After all, humans are quite intelligent, but are often killed by cars too, sadly. Often through no fault of their own.
Old 08-05-2008, 11:35 PM
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I've heard it said that we would have made it to the moon years earlier if we could just have convinced raccoons that there were garbage cans up there. They would have figured out how to get there and we could just follow them.

Who knows how smart any animal really is? But raccoons have great problem solving skills, and they definitely learn. They cooperate and organize to some degree to get food; it's pretty amazing to watch.

They also can get cans stuck on their heads and wander around bumping into things for 20 minutes. So, maybe they're not too smart.

Last edited by Telemark; 08-05-2008 at 11:35 PM.
Old 08-05-2008, 11:42 PM
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I've always wondered why so many are roadkill, too, ESPECIALLY when I believe them to be really smart! I actually have lots of fun stories about raccoons and have a love and fondness for them.

One set of grandparents had a cottage on a lake in northern Wisconsin. Raccoons were nightly visitors. We had names for them and they would come to our door every night around 8:00pm looking for treats, namely marshmallows. There were several families and it was not uncommon to have 15-20 racoons, mostly moms and their babies eating marshmallows. Sunshine, our first and favorite raccoon, would sit back on her bum and reach up with her delicate an dexterous hands to grab a marshmallow off a stick. She taught five or six generations of babies to do the same. There were so many other stories as well. It was my "Little House in the Woods" life.

On the other side of my family (northern Missouri), my other grandpa was a hunter and owned a couple of hound dogs. Grandpa always told me he never let the dogs get too far away from him because a raccoon on the run will lead a dog to water, lure him in, and jump on his head to push it under water and drown him. I don't know if that is true or not, but he believed it and never lied to me, so I have no reason to doubt it.

I've come to believe that I am one of very small group of admirers of raccoons. I never underestimate the damage they can do, the cuteness they provide, and the wit they use to navigate their lives. The roadkill thing? I think it is because they are simply nocturnal and highly active. I also believe in the survival of the fittest, so I chalk it up to "they weren't one of the bright ones".
Old 08-05-2008, 11:47 PM
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For whatever reason, ten years ago, I believed raccoons were not good to have around. I saw a raccoon near the trash, so I got an ice cube and threw it at the guy, hoping to miss but startle it away. I missed and the ice cube broke up on the ground right under his nose. He didn't even budge. He then picked up the ice cube bits and enjoyed them as a tasty snack. So much for the deterrent.
Old 08-06-2008, 12:06 AM
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They're not smart enough to make coats and hats out of our fur.
Old 08-06-2008, 12:14 AM
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It could be that raccoons are so clever and prolific that you see more dead ones on the road, but that represents a tiny percentage of the ones that survive. They're crazy clever at getting into garbage, I've heard...Telemark seems to have hit this one on the head. Maybe we should be convincing the raccoons that there are garbage cans on Mars, with nearby puddles they can wash the food in?

I hate raccoons. In the few encounters I've had with them, there's nothing cuddly and/or cute about them. Looking one in the eye, I know they're wild animals for sure. They just creep the hell out of me.

IIRC mice are quite smart in that poison mfrs have had to resort to a time-released formula. That is, if a mouse sees his buddy eat something and die, he won't eat it.
Old 08-06-2008, 12:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Telemark
I've heard it said that we would have made it to the moon years earlier if we could just have convinced raccoons that there were garbage cans up there. They would have figured out how to get there and we could just follow them.
Dave Barry. Here is a recently reposted column with some raccoon-oriented comments; the one where he makes that comment does not appear to be available online at present. But IIRC correctly, the line is something like, "If we ever get serious, as a species, about getting to Mars, what we need to do is somehow convince the raccoons that campers have hidden food there. They will find a way."
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Old 08-06-2008, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Duck Duck Goose
Raccoons are generally solitary animals; you may see them in groups at your garbage cans, but that's because that's where the food is.
Raccoons, like bears, are sociable animals, but not social ones. That is, when it suits them they can get along, but they don't need companionship or pack membership.

I'd put raccoons at about the same intelligence level as the American Black Bear; that is, roughly the same level as the gorilla or chimpanzee. They are, as previously noted, wild animals and not well suited to domestication, and wily as hell when it comes to foraging for food.

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Old 08-06-2008, 02:10 AM
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They're more street smart than book smart.



I once had to pick up a juvenile handraised raccoon that had been in a house fire and hold it overnight until it could be transferred to a friend's wildlife sanctuary. The raccoon had some congestion but was otherwise fine. I had a very bad cold at the time. Our breathing sounded the same.

They gave me the 'coon in a cardboard carrier - bad idea - he got out of that after a few minutes and was running around in the car with me. Then when I got him to my house I had to try to get him back in the box to carry him inside. I let him run loose in the enclosed porch while I set up his cage which was in a small room adjacent to our garage. I was still living at home at the time and my mother had some unfired ceramic items on the porch. The little monkey went around sticking his hands up inside every ceramic object to see if there was anything inside.

I moved him to his cage which he managed to escape out of at some point and get into the garage, in the rafters. I managed to find him by his breathing. So I was up on a ladder while feverish and coughing and wheezing trying to catch a young, active wheezing raccoon. I don't know how but I managed to catch him. I was very happy to send him off with his new keeper later that day.

So he was an active, clever little bugger that managed to outsmart me a few times. That may not be saying much about their intelligence but that's my raccoon story.
Old 08-06-2008, 08:47 AM
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I hand raised an infant raccoon from about the age of four days old to adulthood. They are VERY intelligent, in a similar way to primates. Niko could solve simple problems, follow about 35 simple and 10 complex commands, had a large vocabulary of food related words, and would invent new "games" to keep himself amused. They are also OCD about their routines.

For example, raccoons have extremely sensitive, dexterous little paws. We supplied him with several baskets full of interesting textured items that he could play with. Every morning without fail he would insist on dragging a little basket full of smooth river pebbles over to the door and filled my left boot up with them. Niko would then cry for breakfast, and pull on my shorts with both teeth and paws until he got his bottle, and later his food. After brekkers it was back to the boot to remove the pebbles and put them back in the basket. He used his litterbox fastidiously and would not take a bath unless he had his purple rubber duck.

If you happen to be retired, or work from home and do not have children, they can make a wonderful and interactive pet if you are able to accommodate yourself to the needs of an undomesticated animal. For everyone else, remember that they also can bite hard, claw like the devil, and climb like apes; so don't feed them unless you want them to come back every night demanding food.
Old 08-06-2008, 08:54 AM
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In the book "Little Heathens" a memoir of growing up on a farm during the great depression, the author talks about her pet Raccoons. The young ones were friendly and stayed around, but they had one older one that was still mostly wild and was tied to a tree. If it didn't like it's dinner, it would leave the plate and climb onto a branch above the plate, then wait for one of the chickens to try to eat. At which point it would drop on the chicken, kill and eat it.

So the answer is, smarter than a chicken.
Old 08-06-2008, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by brujaja
I myself once saw a female raccoon climb up out of the sewer, pursued by three males. Right in front of the porch where I stood, she stood up on her hind legs, and snarled ferociously. The males actually backed off.
We'll return to "Mutual of Omaha's Urban Kingdom" after this message from Payday Loans.

Say what you will about raccoons' intelligence - they still can't outrun my V-8 Ford.
Old 08-06-2008, 09:10 AM
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Say what you will about raccoons' intelligence - they still can't outrun my V-8 Ford.
Neither can you.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:07 AM
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Fifteen (now sixteen) responses, yet not a single post by a raccoon. Their intelligence is over estimated.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by vetbridge
Fifteen (now sixteen) responses, yet not a single post by a raccoon. Their intelligence is over estimated.
They just lurk.

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Old 08-06-2008, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by vetbridge
Fifteen (now sixteen) responses, yet not a single post by a raccoon. Their intelligence is over estimated.
Or maybe some of the posters ARE raccoons posing as people. The Devil doesn't always walk up and introduce himself.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:30 AM
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My family and friends have standing orders to immediately terminate any raccoon they see using tools. We don't need the competition.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by vetbridge
Fifteen (now sixteen) responses, yet not a single post by a raccoon. Their intelligence is over estimated.
On the internet, no one knows you're a raccoon.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Bin-Gay
I've always wondered why so many are roadkill, too, ESPECIALLY when I believe them to be really smart!
1. It depends on where you live. As I noted earlier, here in Urban Central Illinois, we hardly ever see raccoons as roadkill, it's all squirrels, cats, and possums.

2. Raccoons are nocturnal, so they're out when cars can't see them at the side of the road. Can't speak for the rest of the human race, but I swerve to avoid animals if it's safe to do so, and if I can see them. But at night, I can't always see them, so I've inadvertently "thumped" a few.

3. Even a member of a superintelligent species can't extrapolate with no data--a human child doesn't know what "oncoming headlights" signify until he's old enough to observe and to retain what "car headlights" mean, usually about age 5. So a raccoon ambling up to the pavement on his appointed nocturnal round wouldn't have any way of knowing that "oncoming headlights" means "wait until it passes." It would just be "bright lights/loud noise" to him. It's not a factor of intelligence as such, in other words. He could be a racccoon Einstein, able to solve complex quadratic equations in his head, but if he'd never actually seen a compatriot squished by the "bright lights/loud noise thing", he wouldn't know what it was.
Old 08-06-2008, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius
My family and friends have standing orders to immediately terminate any raccoon they see using tools.
So not with their bare hands then?
Old 08-06-2008, 11:25 AM
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My evolution included a club.
Old 08-06-2008, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius
My evolution included a club.
My coming of age involved a club of sorts.
Old 08-06-2008, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train
I'd put raccoons at about the same intelligence level as the American Black Bear; that is, roughly the same level as the gorilla or chimpanzee.
Really? Why would you rate them at that level-- ie, self aware, tool making animals.
Old 08-06-2008, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace
Really? Why would you rate them at that level-- ie, self aware, tool making animals.
Based on both field research accounts and personal (if anecdotal) experience of watching them in action. Bears and raccoons are not tool-makers, of course--the lack of opposable thumbs inhibits the ability to build tools--but both are mechanically very clever, capable of learning quickly by example, and will used found 'tools' in the environment for leverage and manipulation. I once watched a sow attempt to open a self-locking trash can (the kind with a latch that is underneath a cover, requiring you to insert your hand palm up under the latch). She then picked up a branch with her teeth and attempted to jam it under the cover, again with no positive effect. It was clear that she understood where the mechanism was (if not, perhaps, how it worked); she kept trying to fit her paw under the cover and attempted to tear at it with her teeth, to no avail, so she'd clearly observed people opening it and was attempting to emulate. I've also seen on several occasions raccoons working cooperatively to obtain leverage to open containers. On this basis, both species are certainly smarter than canines, and at least as intelligent if not moreso than Equus. Bears (both North American Black and Brown) demonstrate a degree of communication skill and empathy that permits them to function socially around dense food sources even though they are not normally social animals.

Given that bears fill the same environmental niche in North America as gorillas do in Africa (and have generally the same temperament, i.e. retiring and generally non-aggressive), and raccoons as smaller scavenging primates around the world, I don't think it is too far of a reach to suggest that their level of cognitive development is somewhere on the same order of complexity, albeit their behaviors and expressions are not going to be identical to social primates.

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Old 08-06-2008, 01:16 PM
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I've seen a raccoon open the latches on an old-fashioned Coleman cooler, so I think they are pretty smart.

A friend of mine, Harold, had a hand raised adult female raccoon. Petunia loved to mix it up with Harold's cats and would even start trouble with Harold's mastiffs. One day Harold called me for help in getting Petunia to the vet because she'd been in a bad fight with the dogs. I was in the passenger seat holding Petunia, when she decided she needed to sit on my head to be comfortable. People in the other cars stared and pointed; I only wish I had pictures of me wearing my raccoon hat that day!
Old 08-06-2008, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train
Based on both field research accounts and personal (if anecdotal) experience of watching them in action. Bears and raccoons are not tool-makers, of course--the lack of opposable thumbs inhibits the ability to build tools--but both are mechanically very clever, capable of learning quickly by example, and will used found 'tools' in the environment for leverage and manipulation. I once watched a sow attempt to open a self-locking trash can (the kind with a latch that is underneath a cover, requiring you to insert your hand palm up under the latch). She then picked up a branch with her teeth and attempted to jam it under the cover, again with no positive effect. It was clear that she understood where the mechanism was (if not, perhaps, how it worked); she kept trying to fit her paw under the cover and attempted to tear at it with her teeth, to no avail, so she'd clearly observed people opening it and was attempting to emulate. I've also seen on several occasions raccoons working cooperatively to obtain leverage to open containers. On this basis, both species are certainly smarter than canines, and at least as intelligent if not moreso than Equus. Bears (both North American Black and Brown) demonstrate a degree of communication skill and empathy that permits them to function socially around dense food sources even though they are not normally social animals.

Given that bears fill the same environmental niche in North America as gorillas do in Africa (and have generally the same temperament, i.e. retiring and generally non-aggressive), and raccoons as smaller scavenging primates around the world, I don't think it is too far of a reach to suggest that their level of cognitive development is somewhere on the same order of complexity, albeit their behaviors and expressions are not going to be identical to social primates.

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I'm not convinced. Either about the intelligence level or that bears and gorillas fill the same ecological niche. Black bears omnivores, eating a wide range of meat and fish. Their lifestyles are quite different, too, as gorillas and chimps are highly social animals living in tightly knit social groups. Add to that the considerable differences in length of "childhood", and the comparison breaks down even further. That is not to say that raccoorns aren't very clever, but chimp-level cleverness? Unlikely.

Of course if you've got cites to back up any of those claims...

Last edited by John Mace; 08-06-2008 at 02:17 PM.
Old 08-06-2008, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Ecks
So the answer is, smarter than a chicken.
Dude, I've seen rocks that are smarter than a chicken. Chickens run around after you cut off their heads because they only use them for eating & breathing, it takes a while for them to starve or suffocate.
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:39 PM
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I can only reply--
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace
I'm not convinced. Either about the intelligence level or that bears and gorillas fill the same ecological niche. Black bears omnivores, eating a wide range of meat and fish. Their lifestyles are quite different, too, as gorillas and chimps are highly social animals living in tightly knit social groups. Add to that the considerable differences in length of "childhood", and the comparison breaks down even further. That is not to say that raccoorns aren't very clever, but chimp-level cleverness? Unlikely.

Of course if you've got cites to back up any of those claims...
I swear I've posted a couple of links to peer-reviewed papers before but I can't find them now. I have read several papers by Joanne Oliva-Purdy, who has done observational research on both black bears and primates which indicated that the capability of conceptual comprehension may be roughly equal, at least in qualitative measures of intelligence. Here is a link from the WNET Nature program (for what that is worth) discussing ursine intelligence. Bears, of course, don't engage in the group social relationships that the more advanced primates regularly do, and while they are capable of some degree of social altruism when they do form "social" groups around a common food source, these are temporary interactions of convenience rather than lifelong tribal units. On the other hand, bears show an excellent grasp of mechanical conceptualization (despite their lack of gripping appendages) and do have an extended rearing period (2-1/2 to 3 years), which is comparable or longer than most large carnivores, despite the fact that bears, especially black bears, are not primary predators. The diet of most bears (aside from coastal bears with access to spawning grounds or shellfish sources) is largely vegetable- and nut-scrounging, with most protein coming from grubs and insects, and hunting only opportunistically. Comparing their intelligence to that of a gorilla or orangutan might be a bit of stretch but it's not an enormous one.

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Old 08-06-2008, 06:55 PM
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I can only reply--
Hey, I meant a strip club! Get your mind out of the gutter, pal!
Old 08-06-2008, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
I'm not convinced. Either about the intelligence level or that bears and gorillas fill the same ecological niche. Black bears omnivores, eating a wide range of meat and fish. Their lifestyles are quite different, too, as gorillas and chimps are highly social animals living in tightly knit social groups. Add to that the considerable differences in length of "childhood", and the comparison breaks down even further. That is not to say that raccoorns aren't very clever, but chimp-level cleverness? Unlikely.

Of course if you've got cites to back up any of those claims...
Animal intelligence is a difficult thing to evaluate. How intelligent is a spider? Not at all, but it can make some intricate webs. Trap door spiders make intricate dens with hinged lids. Some birds make amazingly complex nests Some birds use tools, as do Otters. They used to measure intelligence by looking at the mass of the brain in proportion to the body, but that's looking iffy.

I don't know if you've heard of Alex, the recently deceased African Gray Parrot, but he had surpassed most intelligence metrics of great apes and dolphins before he died:

Quote:
Dr. Pepperberg, listing Alex's accomplishments in 1999, said he could identify fifty different objects and recognize quantities up to six; that he could distinguish seven colors and five shapes, and understand the concepts of "bigger", "smaller", "same", and "different," and that he was learning "over" and "under". Alex had a vocabulary of about 150 words, but was exceptional in that he appeared to have understanding of what he said. For example, when Alex was shown an object and was asked about its shape, color, or material, he could label it correctly. If asked the difference between two objects, he also answered that, but if there was no difference between the objects, he said “none.” When he was tired of being tested, he would say “I’m gonna go away,” and if the researcher displayed annoyance, Alex tried to diffuse it with the phrase, “I’m sorry.” If he said “Wanna banana”, but was offered a nut instead, he stared in silence, asked for the banana again, or took the nut and threw it at the researcher. When asked questions in the context of research testing, he gave the correct answer approximately 80 percent of the time.

Preliminary research also seems to indicate that Alex could carry over the concept of four blue balls of wool on a tray to four notes from a piano. Dr. Pepperberg was also training him to recognize the Arabic numeral “4” as “four.”

In July 2005, Pepperberg reported that Alex understood the concept of zero.

Dr. Pepperberg was training the bird to recognize English phonemes, in the hopes that he would conceptually relate an English written word with the spoken word. He could identify sounds made by two-letter combinations such as SH and OR.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:48 PM
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I don't think they are very bright. But they are VERY curious. This means they will try things more than other types of animals. Also means I find more dead raccoons, cause they are trying stupid things. The more you try things, the more you'll find the things that work and be able to teach them.
Old 08-06-2008, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by SCSimmons
Dude, I've seen rocks that are smarter than a chicken. Chickens run around after you cut off their heads because they only use them for eating & breathing, it takes a while for them to starve or suffocate.
And then, there was Mike:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_the_Headless_Chicken

On Monday, September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, had his mother-in-law around for supper and was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken. Olsen failed to completely decapitate the five-and-a-half month old bird named Mike. The axe missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact.[3]

On the first night after the decapitation Mike slept with his decapitated head under his wing.[4]


Despite Olsen's botched handiwork, Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily; he even attempted to preen and crow, although he could do neither. After the bird did not die, a surprised Mr. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper; he was also fed small grains of corn. Mike occasionally choked on his own mucus, which the Olsen family would clear using a syringe.

Turns out he weighed 2.5 lbs at the time they tried to kill him but grew to 8 lbs before he choked to death (and no, nobody "choked the chicken"---they tried to save him).

Last edited by lobotomyboy63; 08-06-2008 at 10:58 PM.
Old 08-07-2008, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Sam Stone
I don't know if you've heard of Alex, the recently deceased African Gray Parrot, but he had surpassed most intelligence metrics of great apes and dolphins before he died:
Just for accuracy, Dr Pepperberg's claims regarding the birds "intelligence" are not universally accepted. Ever hear about Clever Hans?. Just saying.
Old 08-07-2008, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by vetbridge
Just for accuracy, Dr Pepperberg's claims regarding the birds "intelligence" are not universally accepted. Ever hear about Clever Hans?. Just saying.
Were her papers not subject to peer review? I would think a scientist in a university program would know how to conduct experiments, wouldn't she?

Have you seen videos of Alex at work? It's not at all like clever Hans. For instance, when asked to count how many items are on a tray, Alex would not go, "One, two, three, four..." and then stop on the 'right' number. Alex would simply look at the board full of objects and say "Six." Or when asked "What matter?" when a researcher would show Alex a material made of wood, Alex would just say "Wood."

Last edited by Sam Stone; 08-07-2008 at 11:14 AM.
Old 08-07-2008, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by lobotomyboy63
Wikipedia? C'mon, pal, you can find a more authoritative source than Wikipedia!
Old 08-07-2008, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Sam Stone
Animal intelligence is a difficult thing to evaluate.
Yes, and it's difficult to compare intelligence levels across species. Raccoons are no doubt very smart at being raccoons. But I would be very surprised if raccoons were on the level of the great apes across a broad test of intelligence. Something that included problem solving and rational planning. A chimp can solve a problem in its mind, and then proceed to do it the first time. Not many animals can do that, although crows and ravens appear to be able to (which I think would surprise a lot of people).

Last edited by John Mace; 08-07-2008 at 07:49 PM.
Old 08-07-2008, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
Yes, and it's difficult to compare intelligence levels across species. Raccoons are no doubt very smart at being raccoons. But I would be very surprised if raccoons were on the level of the great apes across a broad test of intelligence. Something that included problem solving and rational planning. A chimp can solve a problem in its mind, and then proceed to do it the first time. Not many animals can do that, although crows and ravens appear to be able to (which I think would surprise a lot of people).
I've seen raccoons puzzle out problems; while I would not put them on the level of a chimpanzee, they're almost certainly as intelligent as the smarter monkeys like capuchins. Given what I've seen of and read of the behavior of American Black bears, I don't think it out of line to compare their intelligence to that of the Great Apes (though there are clearly some behavioral and social differences, as outlined above), and if anything, Brown/grizzly bears appear to display and even greater degree of conceptualization, although bears lack the fine manipulative ability to make tools or structures. The complexity of the brain structure of ursines also suggests a high level of development comparable to primates, although this is not definitive or quantitative in a useful way.

Estimating animal intelligence, especially as a single qualitative measure is a tricky business, because the uses we have for intelligence may not be quite the same that other animals have, but experience has shown that in general we have tended to underestimate the capacity of non-human species in their conceptual intelligence, cognitive depth, and self-awareness and empathy.

The intelligence of crows and ravens (and most species of parrot as well) is well recognized by people who have been in close contact with them, even if it is only recently recognized by the behavioral community and novel to the public at large. Particularly of note is their learned behaviors and adolescent playfulness, which included complex games and competitions between birds to sharpen foraging and stashing skills, as well as communication between birds.

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Old 08-07-2008, 09:06 PM
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I have an amusing story to contribute. When I was a kid, the mn up the street was a bow hunter. One day in the woods, he came upon two abandoned raccoon babies (the mother had died). He took them home to his children. The two raccons were amusing pets, and were quite playful. One day, the family left them home-the raccons climbed into the china cabinet, and opened the doors-they then tossed all the plates onto the floor (all of the china was smashed).
The next day, the raccoons were gone!
Old 08-07-2008, 09:24 PM
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I tried securing my garbage bin with cords. The little bastards can untie knots, as it turns out.

I'd start using locks but I'm afraid I'll look out there one night and see a raccoon with a set of burglar's tools.

One reason you might be seeing so many hit by cars, though, is simply that there's a zillion of them. The raccoon population in North America has exploded in size and range in the last fifty to 100 years owing largely to the huge benefits they derive from humans; elimination of predators, access to human-built nesting sites, and enormous, easy-access food supplies. More or less any wooded area you see will support raccoons, and they fill our towns and cities. I've lived the last eight years in and around Toronto, a metropolis of considerable size, and the raccoons here are just not to be believed. They're everywhere, in astounding numbers, and remarkably fearless; a few weeks ago I had to actually kick one in the ass to get him out of my back yard at the speed I wanted. I'd guess they outnumber humans here.

There are few places you can go on the continent with trees where there won't be raccoons in uncountable abundance. The ones you see hit by cars are a tiny fraction of a fraction of the total raccoon population.
Old 08-07-2008, 10:33 PM
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I raised one as a pet, had it for a few years. In my opinion they are very smart. He displayed a remarkable talent for problem solving. For example, he once moved a waste can to stand on to reach an unreachable shelf.
Old 08-08-2008, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone
Were her papers not subject to peer review? I would think a scientist in a university program would know how to conduct experiments, wouldn't she?

Have you seen videos of Alex at work?
Not my area of expertise. I do know, however, that birds lack a neocortex, making some of Pepperberg's claims highly unlikely. I have read challenges to her work by people whose opinions I respect.

If I have time later today I will try to dig up some of her critic's pages. For now: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...53C1A96F958260
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