We all know that societies across the world are having an impact on the natural world, be it through global warming or dwindling habitats, but now it’s been discovered that mammals are finding new ways to stay in the shadows of human existence by turning themselves into night owls.
A group of scientists at the University of California in Berkeley monitored 62 different species under conditions of low and high human disturbance to get a better picture of how civilization is affect their existence. Using remotely triggered cameras, GPS, radio collars, and direct observation, they discovered that, when around people, mammals increase their nighttime activity drastically, by nearly 70 percent.
“Catastrophic losses in wildlife populations and habitats as a result of human activity are well documented, but the subtler ways in which we affect animal behavior are more difficult to detect and quantify,” said Kaitlyn Gaynor, lead author of the study. Whether humans pose a direct threat or not, mammals of every variety are retreating into the darkness to get away from hikers, hunters, drivers and farmers alike. “Animals responded strongly to all types of human disturbance, regardless of whether people actually posed a direct threat,” Gaynor said. “Our presence alone is enough to disrupt their natural patterns of behavior.”
The study presents us with two conclusions, both nearly on the same side of the coin: animals are either finding inventive ways to coexist with humans as natural environments dwindle, or the change in routine is a forced retreat into darkness. Each conclusions a dark reminder of human influence across the natural world. As the report’s co-author Justin Brashares, concluded, “It’s hard to believe we can simply squeeze nature into the dark half of each day and expect it to function and thrive.”