Photo worth seeing: Wildlife in the pandemic

Wild animals in the corona pandemic
Two mountain goats are captured by a camera trap © Madeleine Wrazej, Parks Canada & UBC WildCo

From one day to the next – the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic suddenly paralyzed large parts of human active life. This drastic change caused by the restriction of human mobility also opened up new opportunities for many wild animals to move undisturbed in environments otherwise disturbed by humans. This was a unique opportunity for biologists to gain new insights into animal activity in nature. More than 220 researchers worldwide took advantage of this opportunity. During the pandemic, they lay in wait with a total of 5,000 camera traps and captured how wild animals react to changes in human behavior. A team led by Cole Burton from the University of British Columbia has now evaluated the data from 102 projects on 163 different animal species.

The result: “Contrary to popular reports, we did not see a general pattern of wildlife roaming freely while people stayed home,” says Cole Burton of the University of British Columbia. In part, this was due to the fact that the lockdowns did not reduce human presence everywhere – camera traps in parks and forests in particular did not detect a decrease in activity. The image shows two migrating mountain goats that were photographed in Banff National Park in the Canadian province of Alberta.

But even in the places from which people stayed away due to the pandemic, wild animal activity did not increase uniformly. “What animals did in response to people varied greatly, which surprised us a little,” says Burton. In Canada, the research team observed that predators such as wolverines and wolves appeared in front of the camera traps more frequently during times when human activity was reduced. If this increased again, the predators appeared less often. Conversely, some herbivores were even more active when human presence was high. “Humans may be providing herbivores with a shield from their predators by deterring the carnivorous animals that the prey would otherwise have to avoid,” explains Burton. Data from the camera traps also show that although the large herbivores were seen more frequently in places and times more heavily influenced by humans, they often shifted their activity there to the dark hours of the night. . “We believe this is an adaptation that allows animals to share spaces with humans while minimizing negative encounters,” says Burton.

“Understanding how wildlife responds to human activities in different contexts helps us develop effective conservation plans that have local and global impacts. “That’s why we’re working to improve wildlife monitoring systems using tools like camera traps,” concludes Burton.

Recent Articles

Related Stories