Yogi might have been smarter than the average bear, but he was just a two-dimensional cartoon character. But there's a bear in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve who really seems to be smarter than the average bear, as he's figured out how to use tools.
That unnamed bear rocketed to international stardom last week when word spread about his use of a barnacle-encrusted tool to scrub his face.
"Whereas the use of tools is comparatively common among primates and has also been documented in several species of birds, fishes, and invertebrates, tool-using behaviours have so far been observed in only four species of non-primate animals," writes Dr. Volker B. Deecke, of the University of Cumbria in the United Kingdom, in the abstract to his report, Tool-use in the Brown Bear, which recently appeared in the journal Animal Cognition.
Dr. Deecke captured a series of photographs of the bear scrubbing his face while visiting Glacier Bay during the summer of 2010.
"The animal repeatedly picked up barnacle-encrusted rocks in shallow water, manipulated and reoriented them in its forepaws, and used them to scrub its neck and muzzle," noted the biologist.
What might have prompted this bear to resort to rocks for a scrubbing? Dr. Deecke theorizes that it was likely looking to "relieve irritated skin or to remove food-remains from the fur."
Bears have been known to scratch and itch when necessary by rubbing up against trees and rocks -- remember this bear-scratching video from Glacier National Park? -- but this bruin has taken personal grooming to a higher level. To see photos of the bear in action, check out Dr. Deecke's Facebook page.