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Animal Neighbors are Filling in the Spaces We've Vacated

Marion Charatan

Posted on May 2, 2020 16:37

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There's a resurgence of our furry and feathered friends in places we don't usually see them due to the huge numbers of people staying home because of the COVID19 pandemic.

It is a fascinating phenomena that biologists attribute to the current change in human behavior — an influx of animals entering our territories due to new stay-at-home policies.

Animals, fish and birds from all over the world have been spotted reclaiming space in both city and rural environments. There have been numerous sightings of these activities — from gangs of macaque monkeys sparring with each other on the streets of Lopburi, Thailand to silver fish swimming gracefully and undisturbed in Venice, Italy's canals. Wild deer, boars and leopards have been seen where they previously languished. 

Changes in how animals behave is another byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic. It is something that I personally had not thought about until now. I wonder what the long range impact of these migrations will be.

Will animals become more aggressive to people as they filter into human territory? Even before the COVID19 crisis, animals were being driven out of their areas by global warming and destruction of natural habitats.

I saw signs of animals mingling over 10 years ago. I'll never forget driving to my previous job at KIRO radio, turning off a Seattle freeway and seeing three elegant coyotes running in unison down a city street. It was early in the morning and I was captivated by the unusual sight, fully aware that coyotes prefer to live in the woods, not typically metropolitan hubs. 

But our bad habits, like cutting down natural environs and overbuilding has only contributed to animals seeking refuge away from their comfort zones. As we remain isolated in lockdown, our furry friends are naturally venturing out onto empty streets, looking for food as well as uncharted territory. 

Animals tend to shy away from large groups of people who might be confrontational. But given the chance, they like to explore and forage for food and that's exactly what they are doing now. 

Even rats are coming out of the woodwork. A recent rather troubling story talked about how restaurant closures obliterated a food source for rats. Hence, rodents have resorted to cannibalism of their own. They also pose a threat to the homeless due to disease transmission or possible attacks. 

Aggression under stress is not only a byproduct of rats. Humans behave in the same way. I have personally witnessed nastiness and a lack of civility between people in grocery stores, at gas stations and other places lately. 

The long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our environment and economy will be disastrous. 

Even before this, I don't believe humans have learned how to live really well with each other, let alone our animal neighbors. Now, the question is, will critters who wander into our spaces treat us better than our human counterparts? Time will tell.

Marion Charatan

Posted on May 2, 2020 16:37

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Source: BBC

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