While humans were in strict lockdown, wild mammals roamed further – new research
This was such a sudden and substantial event that it has become known as the anthropause.
- This was such a sudden and substantial event that it has become known as the anthropause.
- Many bustling cities fell silent, often with restaurants, shops and schools closing, and only essential services allowed to operate.
- Meanwhile, scientists began to wonder whether this tragic event could provide an opportunity to learn how humans impact the behaviour of wildlife.
What animals did in lockdown
- The initiative includes several projects tackling this question from different angles, with our first findings now published.
- It is normally impossible to distinguish these two effects because they are closely matched with each other, but the lockdown provided a chance for us to do this.
Exploring new areas
- It may be that mammals ventured closer to roads with reduced levels of traffic, while the absence of humans in the environment may have allowed them to explore new areas.
- For example, a team led by ecologist Chris Wilmers found that cougars, which are typically secretive animals that avoid areas of human habitation, ventured far closer to the built-up areas of Santa Cruz, California, in 2020 than in previous years.
- For example, we could adjust traffic flows in areas important for animal movement – in some national parks you can only drive during the day to avoid disturbing animals at night.