Animals have their own lifestyles just as people do, but a new study published in the journal Science by a team of researchers led by Kaitlyn Gaynor from the University of California, Berkeley delves into captivating details about how wild animals might change how they live to cope with a growing human population.
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The researchers analyzed records involving 62 species across six of the world’s continents and discovered trends consistent with the notion that wild animals want to get away from us.
More specifically, they witnessed a 20% uptick in nighttime activity in animals that aren’t ordinarily considered nocturnal, and many of these animals moved away from their traditional roaming grounds to places less-traveled by humans.
"It suggests that animals might be playing it safe around people," Gaynor explained.
"We may think that we leave no trace when we're just hiking in the woods, but our mere presence can have lasting consequences."
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Humans impede on wild animals in a handful of ways, such as by hiking, hunting, farming, and fishing; but the list doesn’t end there. Some of the animals impacted by these activities include antelope, bobcats, boars, coyotes, and otters, to name a few.
These encroaching activities startle wild animals and compel them to change how they live to avoid human confrontation. Furthermore, all the animals appeared to respond in comparable ways despite how dissimilar they are from one another.
"It's a little bit scary," she continued. "Even if people think that we're not deliberately trying to impact animals, we probably are without knowing it."
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The findings present dangerous implications, especially as large-scale land development projects continue around the globe. Not only are animals running out of places to go, but those that are best-suited for daytime lifestyles are now at a significant disadvantage against predators.
Reversing these effects would be challenging considering the current state of things, but humanity can do its part to help by resisting the urge to disturb wild animals in their natural habitat whenever possible.