Wildlife To Humans: 'Shut Up!'

New report shows human noise—even from hikers—can interfere with wildlife
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New report shows human noise—even from hikers—can interfere with wildlife

Though wildlife gets plenty bothered by our polluting their air and water, sometimes they just want us to shut up. A new comprehensive review by researchers from Colorado State University analyzed 100 separate studies to show that human-generated noise interferes significantly with wild animals mating, prey location, and other essential behavior.

Worst of all, it's not always the noise you'd expect: While loud, prolonged sounds like snowmobiles and energy extraction certainly play a part, some animals are actually more disturbed by "quiet" human wilderness uses, like hiking or cross-country skiing.

“There's pretty good evidence that so-called quiet use can disturb wildlife. If it's a noisy source, the animal perceives it a long way off and can track its progress. There are no surprises, and it can go on feeding or doing whatever else. A quiet sound, like a snowshoer's footstep, is only perceptible when it is very close, potentially startling the animal,” (National Park Service's Natural Sounds Program Kurt) Fristrup said.

Which is not to say it's all your fault; louder, long-distance noises often result in "masking," a situation where an animal can't hear noise necessary to its survival. The male sage grouse of the Rocky Mountain plains, for instance, emits a wide variety of hoots to attract females, but interfering noise lowers their chance of attracting a mate.

What can we do? Solutions are hard to come by, since 83 percent of the U.S. is within 1 kilometer of a road. But it sounds like you should talk louder when you're in the woods, and shut up when you're not.

—Ted Alvarez

via Aspen Times

image credit: law_keven