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At Least One Bear Has Learned to Use a Tool March 9, 2012
Alaska bear using stone tool
A brown bear in Alaska using a stone "tool" to scratch and exfoliate.
A young brown bear in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park has become the first such animal to ever be seen using a tool.

Writing in the journal Animal Cognition, Volker Deecke of the University of Cumbria said that the animal he was observing “repeatedly picked up barnacle-encrusted rocks in shallow water, manipulated and re-oriented them in its forepaws, and used them to rub its neck and muzzle.”

The bear was molting and had big patches of fur hanging off its skin.

Deecke believes the bear may have been using the tools to “exfoliate” and to relieve itching.

While the use of tools is widespread among primates, only a handful of other mammals have been observed using them.

Deecke says bears have the largest brains relative to body size of all carnivores, possibly leading to such skillful behavior.

Photos: Volker Deecke