Photos Show How Dramatically Wildlife Behavior Changed During Lockdown

A wolf in a snowy forest.

Humans might have sheltered in place, but animals were on the move during the pandemic’s lockdown days.

A new study examines the changing behavior of animals during the height of COVID-19, along with hundreds of images of wildlife. Camera traps were a crucial piece of the study, which utilized a massive 5,653 cameras according to the study. This makes sense as camera traps are largely non-invasive and allow human observation of animal without a person being present at the time of the image capture, instead triggers when it detects movement.

The study, which was published last week in Nature Ecology & Evolution, noted the importance of wildlife adapting to human presence, making it “critical to understand species responses to humans in different contexts.”

Interestingly, the results weren’t uniform. Carnivores, for example, were the most affected, according to the study. When there was a high level of human activity, mammals steered clear of underdeveloped areas while remaining more active in developed regions but sticking to the nighttime. Carnivores were also observed to move more toward a nocturnal schedule. The study also notes that while avoiding people might be the first thought many have, some creatures seek people out for resources or protection from predators. Further, the camera traps were spread throughout multiple countries and continents.

It’s a delicate balance. The pandemic lockdowns provided scientists with “a quasi-experimental opportunity to study short-term behavioral responses of wild animals,” as the report explains.

While some areas saw fewer people, places like public parks experienced an influx as they were some of the only locations people could visit. This allowed researchers to study both circumstances, areas with more and fewer people.

“We all started to hear some of these emerging stories of, you know, animals running in the streets, or dolphins swimming up canals,” wildlife biologist and University of British Columbia associate professor Cole Burton, who led the study, told CBC News in an interview. “And we thought, hey, we’ve got a lot of these cameras out on the landscape studying animals before the pandemic hit, we can really try to use this opportunity to see if their behaviors changed and how they changed while people were undergoing lockdowns.”

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.