Outdoor Recreation’s Impact on Wildlife

In the past few years, there has been a growing interest in outdoor recreation as more and more people are headed outside. Sports like hiking and mountain biking are great ways to explore nature and get some fresh air, but how do these activities impact our wild neighbors?

As it turns out, our presence can significantly impact wildlife like bighorn sheep, moose, elk, mountain lions, bears, and more. Whether or not we see an animal flee our approach, our activities can lead to the displacement of wildlife. Researchers, who looked at hikers with and without dogs and mountain bikers, found that outdoor recreationists can inadvertently cause stress to animals, which can affect them in a variety of ways. Our presence can cause animals to flee quality habitat that offers them the food and shelter that they rely on for survival and rearing of their offspring. The study also found that animals were more sensitive to human disturbances during different seasons.

Click here to read about the study.

Does this mean that you should stop recreating in nature? Of course not! When you head out into the wilderness, remember that you are in the homes of our wild neighbors. It is important that we treat wildlife and nature with respect. You can take steps to minimize your impact on critters by leaving your dog on a leash, skipping the music (both wildlife and other outdoor enthusiasts will thank you), adhere to seasonal closures of areas that wildlife rely on for survival, and by simply giving wildlife space.

Denise Peterson

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