What's more scary than bears, wolves, or wild dogs? Humans.
Saturday, July 30, 2016, 5:02 PM - With a recent rise in environmental justice and animal rights initiatives, the impact humans have on wildlife and nature is becoming increasingly known.
A recent study from the University of Western Ontario suggests that animals, too, are aware of the influence humans have on their environments.
The study finds that mesocarnivores -- animals with a diet composed of 50 to 70 per cent animal meat -- are more afraid of humans than any other predators.
Published in Behavioural Ecology, an Oxford Journals publication, the research identifies humans as a "super predator" in the eyes of a mesocarnivore. Unsurprising, considering humans kill mesocarnivores at 4.3 times the rate that non-human predators do.
The study took place in Oxfordshire, UK, where hundreds of badgers call home. Researchers used motion-activated video cameras around setts -- badgers' communal burrows -- and played sound clips of wolves, sheep, dogs, bears, and humans.
When the badgers ventured out for food, the cameras would capture their movement.
The findings showed that though dog and bear sounds delayed foraging, badgers eventually left their setts while the sound clips played.
But when the sound of humans played, some badgers failed to emerge fro their burrows altogether. The ones who did leave took 189 to 228 per cent longer than the badgers who heard the dog and bear sounds.
As well, more than half of the badgers examined waited until the human sounds completely stopped playing before leaving home. The human sounds also caused badgers to spend less time foraging, displaying an increase in vigilance -- all signs that point to an heightened level of fear when exposed to human noises.
“Our previous research has shown that the fear large carnivores inspire can itself shape ecosystems," said Liana Zanette, wildlife ecologist from Western’s Faculty of Science. Zanette and colleague Michael Clinchy were both authors on the study.
"These new results indicate that the fear of humans, being greater, likely has even greater impacts on the environment, meaning humans may be distorting ecosystem processes even more than previously image,” Zanette adds.“These results have important implications for conservation, wildlife management and public policy.”
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