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Wildlife To Humans: 'Shut Up!'

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.

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