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Wildlife Biologists See Opportunity In Pandemic-Induced 'Anthropause'

Tyler Quiring / Unsplash

As humans around the world have limited their movement during the coronavirus pandemic, some animals appear to be changing their behavior. Biologist Christian Rutz may have seen one small example for himself.

"Where I live in a small village in Scotland, I've never seen ravens," he said. "We've been living here for eight years. During the lockdown period, during a brief walk, my wife and I, we saw a pair of ravens. That was unprecedented."

Such anecdotes are "hugely valuable," Rutz said. "But we now need a scientific investigation to see how these animals really make use of the landscape while their ranging behavior changes."

Rutz is among the researchers who see in the pandemic a big opportunity to study the human impacts on wildlife. In a recent article published in Nature, he and several colleagues coined a term for the phenomenon - the "anthropause."

The article highlights how "the international research community can use these extraordinary circumstances to gain unprecedented mechanistic insight into how human activity affects wildlife."

While the opportunity has arisen under the most tragic circumstances, Rutz said, "During the anthropause we have this global reduction, sudden reduction, in modern human activity and mobility that allows us to look at these effects across geographic regions, across ecosystems and across species."

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
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