What with drones being used increasingly more often for all sorts of purposes, a team of researchers took to monitoring the effect these may have on wildlife.
More specifically, the effect that buzzing unmanned aerial vehicles has on bears. As such, the researchers, led by Mark Ditmer of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, equipped four free-roaming American black bears in northwestern Minnesota with GPS collars and cardiac biologgers.
Certainly, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles have proven their efficiency in scientific programs. They are a much needed tool that can perform highly difficult tasks with fantastic accuracy.
Among drones’ uses, just the fact that they are cost efficient in replacing entire teams of researchers that gather data, that they can collect large amounts of data, facilitate the observation of and monitor species not so fond of human presence, as well as monitor entire population and any threat to biodiversity, including poaching, adds to their invaluable utility.
However, what do we do with the stress factor? Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are useful research tools, but how do they affect the species they monitor?
The research conducted on the four bears and compiled in the report “Bears Show a Physiological but Limited Behavioral Response to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” published in the Current Biology journal offers one piece of the puzzle.
Bears are usually unphased in front of what they perceive as a danger or threat. Yet, do not be fooled by that appearance. It seems that these large predators are in fact quite frightened by the buzzing of drones. When the drones were flown near them, their heart rates spiked.
The heart rate and location of the four black bears collected via the GPS collars and the cardiac biologgers were sent back to the researchers every two minutes.
Mark Ditmer, lead researcher, stated:
“Some of the spikes in the heart rate of the bears were far beyond what we expected. We had one bear increase her heart rate by approximately 400 percent – from 41 beats per minute to 162 beats per minute”.
The results were shocking for the team. While this case was extreme, the other three bears also saw an increase in the heart rate. The data was collected during 18 flights of the unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, each lasting for approximately 5 minutes.
No permanent health issues were registered with the bears as a result of this research. However, it is important to take note of the stressful effect flying drones has on wildlife. Had it not been for the cardiac biologgers, it would have looked as if the bears are barely reacting to the presence of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Photo Credits: backcountrygallery.com