Disturbance of wildlife (a question on the Snapshot forum)

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Question: "Do you notice a difference in the Snapshot pictures after coming to check the cameras? Do the animals become shyer after recent visits from humans? I am curious about that.”

The question above was asked on the forum and that is a very interesting question. Jochem, intern at De Hoge Veluwe National Park, explains:

How sensitive are animals to disturbance? What factors influence the intensity of the disturbance? How well do they detect human scent? What are the consequences of disturbance? These are the questions that came to my mind about this topic when I read one of our volunteers’ comment on the forum.

The intensity of the disturbance is related to the time and frequency of the disturbance (daily, weekly, monthly) as well as the distance of its source.

The animals that are shown on Snapshot are especially sensitive to disturbance caused by human activity when they are foraging or resting. In 2016, the National Park forbade visitors to wander away from the Park’s paths to prevent the disturbance of wildlife. There are several wildlife observation spots. Here, the animals are more accustomed to human activity. So everyone is able to see some wildlife!

When they are disturbed, they run away. Roe deer stop after 100 meters and check if the danger is gone. Red deer run for cover into the foliage and stay hidden. Wild boars also run far away. Here, you can see that Roe deer are less sensitive to human disturbance than Red deer. Too much disturbance leads to a greater amount of stress on the part of the animals and they then lose a lot of energy. The animals need that energy in the wintertime to keep their body temperature up. In the spring and summer, they need that energy to reproduce and feed their offspring. The loss of energy that comes from too much disturbance can push the animals to migrate elsewhere.

We can conclude that human disturbance can greatly impact animals. The rangers of the Park come to the cameras once every six weeks to change their battery and SD card. They know how to move around the field without creating disturbance. They also go during the day when the animals aren’t there. Human scent gets blown away by the wind fairly quickly, so checking the cameras by the rangers is not a problem.

Tip: visit the Park with binoculars to spot wildlife from a great distance, that way we can enjoy the animals while leaving them to enjoy their rest.