MAR 18, 2024 4:55 PM PDT

Urban vs. Remote: Contrasting Wildlife Responses to Human Presence

How do wild animals react to human presence compared to without humans? This is what a recent study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution hopes to address as a large team of international researchers investigated how wild animals reacted to human presence depending on the location and animal’s diet. This study holds the potential to help scientists, conservationists, and the public better understand the anthropogenic (human-caused) impact with wild animals for both the short and long term.

The study, which involved collaboration of over 200 international researchers, consisted of monitoring 163 mammal species as part of 102 projects across the globe using over 5,000 camera traps to ascertain wild animal behavior patterns based on with and without human presence. Variables for the study included developed versus undeveloped areas, carnivores versus herbivores, and nocturnal versus daytime mammals. In the end, the researchers found that higher human presence in undeveloped areas resulted in reduced wild animal activity while increased activity and nocturnal behavior was observed in developed areas. Additionally, carnivores were observed to exhibit the greatest differences in activity and nocturnal behavior, exhibiting stark decreases and increases, respectively.

Camera image of a wolverine in a hiking trail during closure of the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. (Credit: Cole Burton, UBC WildCo)

“In remote areas with limited human infrastructure, the effects of our actual presence on wildlife may be particularly strong,” said Dr. Kaitlyn Gaynor, who is a biologist and assistant professor at The University of British Columbia and a co-author on the study. “To give wild animals the space they need, we may consider setting aside protected areas or movement corridors free of human activity, or consider seasonal restrictions, like temporary closures of campsites or hiking trails during migratory or breeding seasons.”

The researchers note how this study could help improve wildlife management protocols, specifically pertaining to human-animal coexistence going forward.

What new connections will researchers make about human presence and wild animals in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Nature Ecology & Evolution, EurekAlert!, The University of British Columbia 

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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