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Hiking, Other Human Activities Are Changing When Animals Sleep, Study Says

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Tom Baker, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
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A mountain goat being counted by helicopter.

A recent study published in Science magazine reports some animals are becoming more nocturnal. The cause is human activity.

Researchers studied animal behavior all over the world for the study. They found that mammals exposed to human activity tend to sleep more during the daytime and stay awake more at night.

They looked at everything from tigers in Nepal to bears and rabbits in the Mountain West. 

Kaitlyn Gaynor is a wildlife ecologist at University of California, Berkeley, and the lead author of the paper.

“What we found was the magnitude of this increase in nocturnality was pretty consistent across types of human activity. Even activities that we think of as leaving no trace, like hiking, are having a pretty dramatic consequence,” Gayner said.

Not all human activities affect animals equally. Hiking in the woods, for example, has less of an impact than development projects or deforestation.

This research is an important reminder that our actions change animal behavior, Gayner said, and that there is a limit of how many species can shift their activities to accommodate our own.

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