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Animal Intelligence?

Examples are all around us

    A friend’s statement that animals do not have intelligence gnawed at me. Finally I concluded that the problem was how we interpret the meaning of intelligence. Since I am not a researcher of animal traits, the best I can do to exemplify my belief that animals do have a level of intelligence is to resort to anecdotes of animal behavior.
    It may be an old wives’ tale, but I suspect that many have heard of the dog who would not abandon his dead master but remained in the cemetery after the burial, some say crying for his lost master. I interpret this as a reasoned response, that is, an intelligent thought process.
    How to characterize the actions of the hawk that watches from a tree in my backyard as birds eat at my platform feeder elevated five feet above ground level? The hawk waits for some ground-feeding birds to eat the food that falls off the platform. One of them becomes the hawk’s supper. Instinctual motivation? What is instinct but a thought process?
    I keep two galvanized steel 30-gallon garbage cans of birdseed on my patio. In the daytime, squirrels attempt to chew through a bungee cord passed through each can lid handle and hooked onto the can sides. At night, quite often my motion-sensing security light is activated and I am awakened. Out the rear window, I view a masked bandit also attempting to chew through the bungee cords. Both the squirrels and raccoons smell the food and are smart enough to know they must eliminate the cords.
    I read at Quiet Waters Park on a bench about 10 feet from a 55-gallon refuse can. Sometimes I note noises emanating from the can. Then I see a head pop up to see if I am still seated or advancing toward a favorite diner. After viewing each other for an appropriate time, we both return to our tasks. I believe this raccoon is capable of elementary reasoning and notes that I do not represent a threat. I do not. Roasted raccoon is very tough meat.
    Many dogs are smart enough to appreciate and desire attention and approach humans to be petted. Certainly the desire for attention is not a necessary requisite for their existence but an expression of sociability. This appears to be a deliberate thought process.
    I suspect each of us can recall animal actions that reflect a level of intelligence.

–Bill Rynone, Ph.D., P.E., Annapolis