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Where have the wild things gone during the pandemic

Camera traps, which automatically take photos of wild animals when they detect movement or body heat, have become essential research tools for wildlife biologists. The new study is based on data from 102 different camera trap projects in 21 countries. (Most were based in North America or Europe, but South America, Africa and Asia were also included.) The data allowed scientists to study the activity patterns of 163 different species of wild mammals – and to keep tabs on how often humans were showing symptoms. in the same places.

“One of the great things about this article is that you get information about both humans and animals,” said Marlee Tucker, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the new research.

During the pandemic lockdown, human activity decreased at some project sites while it increased at others. At each study site, researchers compared the frequency with which wildlife was detected during a period of high human activity and a period of low human activity, whether or not the decrease in activity occurred during the period. confinement.

Carnivores, such as wolves and bobcats, appeared very responsive to humans, showing the greatest decline in activity when human activity increased. “Carnivores, especially larger ones, have a long history of antagonism with humans,” Dr Burton said. “For a carnivore, bumping into people or getting too close to people often resulted in death.”

On the other hand, the activity of large herbivores, such as deer and elk, increased when humans were on the move. This could be because the animals simply had to move more to avoid the crowds. But if people help keep carnivores at bay, it could also make it safer for herbivores to come out and play.

“Herbivores tend to be a little less afraid of people, and they may actually use them as a shield against carnivores,” said Dr. Tucker, who praised the study authors for being “able to sort out all these different human impacts”.

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