How Social Media Helped Uncover a Skunk That Uses Tools

Researchers tap a treasure trove of observations in social media posts by amateur photographers.

Two holes in the ice caught Sue Dickerson’s attention when she checked a black plastic water dish in her yard one morning in February 2018. The temperature had dropped to 18 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, so it didn’t surprise her that the top layer of water in the dish had frozen. But what had made those holes? She studied them for a moment. “Flickers,” she thought to herself. The woodpeckers often hung out in her Colorado Springs, Colorado, front yard and had likely pecked through the ice to get a drink. Dickerson, who had stepped outside to grab the photo card from the motion-activated camera she’d set up near the dish, crouched, hooked her index finger into one of the holes and tossed the ice.

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