Study Using GPS Tracking Finds Humans are Restricting Animal Movement

12 Mar 2018

According to the Irish Examiner, animals, such as the fox, hare, and red deer are suffering as a result of a landscape dominated by humans. Concerns have arisen that the expansion of humans into landscapes once left to these animals may leave them more isolated and vulnerable to extinction.

A global wildlife study involving 114 scientists and 803 animals from 57 species on six continents has used GPS location tracking data to make big picture conclusions about the impact of man on the routine migratory movements of animals.

The one consistent thing the study discovered is that among all animal species the overwhelming response to the encroachment of humans into their territory has resulted in a reduction of their movements.

Unfortunately, many of these animals need to move to have access to food at certain times of the year. They move to find shelter and to mate. These things are all affected by the reduction in movements.

The one or two-year impact might be a decline in procreation and population. Over time, though, the consequences could be devastating to entire ecosystems.

One point made is that only 20 years ago, the elk population was nearly 90 percent migratory and counted above 2,000. Now, they are only 30 to 40 percent migratory and they number around 500.

These sharp declines in population, unfortunately, are not isolated among elk. The elk are sources of food for grizzlies and wolves. Their populations are now in a state of decline due to an absence of food.

GPS has been instrumental in helping to identify the changing migratory patterns of these animals as they relate to the ever-expanding presence of human in their territories.

This is only one example of how GPS tracking technology can be used to fuel research, aid in conservation efforts, and get the conversation started about the impact a constantly expanding human presence is having on nature – specifically when it comes to supply and demand.

GPS has also been used to help reintroduce animals to the wild after spending time under the care of humans, to gather data about animal populations, to provide insight into how animals make decisions about migration, mating, etc. and to make important conservation decisions designed to help threatened and/or endangered species thrive once again.

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