Outdoors just for kids: Bears will do anything for a donut

2014-08-28T00:00:00Z Outdoors just for kids: Bears will do anything for a donut The Billings Gazette

Bears are smart, and when there is a chance that they may get food – like figuring out how to break into a car – they are very creative and will keep trying and trying if not scared away.

To see just how smart grizzly bears are, researchers at Washington State University have conducted tests to see if any of their eight captive bears are smart enough to make and use tools to reach a donut hanging out of their reach. One 9-year-old female grizzly named Kio has figured out a way.

Here’s how the study worked: Inside the grizzly bears’ play area a donut was hung on a string from a wire, too high for the animals to reach. First, each bear is tested to see if it will stand on a sawed-off tree stump to reach up and get the donut down. Once this is mastered, researchers move the stump away from the hanging donut and place it on its side. The bear must then move the stump until it is underneath the donut and then flip the stump over to use it as a stool. Kio quickly mastered the moves.

The researchers have seen their grizzlies do other remarkable things, including using a single claw like a key to try to open locks.

By understanding how the bears think, the researchers hope that they can reduce deadly encounters between bears and humans. The study will also shed light on how bears in the wild may adapt as their environment changes.

— Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Brett French

Outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette.

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