A recent study suggests that wildlife is experiencing increased stress stemming from the most unusual of sources: drones. American black bears, for instance, lose it when they spot drones in the sky, though they’re quire able to hide their anxiety.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota attempted to identify how drones and their deployment are influencing wildlife behaviour. These unmanned vehicles have gained popularity in recent years, and are showing up everywhere.
Mark Ditmer, lead author of the study, insists that it’s paramount to measure wildlife’s reactions to the unmanned air vehicles. What he and his colleagues did was to outfit American bears with GPS collars. These high-tech devices did more than just record the animal’s location. They doubled as biologgers, collecting the bear’s heart rate information.
Scientists proceeded to seek correlations between a drone’s flyby and the bear’s heart rate. They concluded that the animal’s heart rate significantly increased each time that the unmanned air vehicle would fly overhead, hinting at possible adrenaline surges caused by stress.
Curiously though, despite this clear physiologic response to the drone flyby, bears remained still and did not flee from what they must have perceived as a threat. According to Ditmer, these findings demonstrate that scientists cannot simply eliminate the effect of the drones on the observation that the animal does not act scared.
These findings aid researchers that would have otherwise “incorrectly come to the conclusion that UAV flights weren’t having much of an effect on individuals.”
Ditmer believes that further research is required to definitively understand this phenomenon, especially since the bears that he and his colleagues studied lived in areas that are highly populated by humans. Understanding stress factors is that much more difficult in such a situation.
The research team has decided to work with captive bears now, and examine whether they become used to the drones and how long that would take.
The findings were published in the most recent issue of Current Biology.
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