According to a new study published in People & Nature this past week, nearly any level of human activity in protected areas can cause alterations in wildlife behavior of that area. The study, conducted in Glacier Bay National Park, placed 40 motion captured cameras across ten locations focusing on people, wolves, moose, black bears, and brown bears.

Researchers controlled human access to those specific locations, allowing them to identify two major thresholds. According to The Hill, the first threshold states that if humans are present in an area, fewer than five animals in the four species mentioned above would be spotted within a week. The second threshold showed that, when an area reached about 40 visitors per week, there would be almost zero wildlife detection.

Wolves tended to be the most likely to disappear among human activity, while brown bears tended to be the least. Moose, on the other hand, were shown to generally be more active while people were around, possibly because they saw human activity as an opportunity to shield themselves from predators.

“It was eye-opening to see the number of wildlife sightings we are ‘missing’ just by recreating in backcountry areas of Glacier Bay. So many people visit national parks for the chance to view wildlife, and that desire alone may reduce the chance of it happening”  Study lead author Mira Sytsma, according to The Hill

It seems obvious that any human interaction would act to scare animals away, but the drastic change shown through this study is a bit shocking. My only question is, how would animal life change with absolutely zero human presence? Is it possible that the research itself is changing their behavior? I guess we’ll never know…

Image Credit: Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve via Facebook

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