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Wildlife may not be immune to the effects that virus has on two-legged mammals

Deer may not be watching the coronavirus coverage, but they do keep an eye out for people. (Photo by Deanne Johnson)

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has already shown its ability to reshape behavior in nature as evidenced by the returning of dolphins to the canals of Venice in Italy.

With limited boat traffic the waters there have cleared to illustrate what could happen if humans back away from regular life patterns which have been in place for decades.

In Ohio, as more people are furloughed or told to work from home, there has also been a drastic change in daily life for humans.

But, as of right now, it’s hard to get a gauge on how that’s affecting animal behavior in the state.

“It’s probably too soon to see,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife Spokesman Jamey Emmert said.

Even though there may be less vehicle traffic and it may appear more quiet outdoors, that does not mean things haven’t changed for wildlife.

“There’s more and more people going outside trying to burn off energy,” Emmert said. “In fact, I went to a park today to eat lunch outside since it was beautiful and it was packed. It’s really not that quiet out there.”

Emmert said as long as it’s nice out, people will tend to go outside more and therefore wildlife might be more likely to lay low.

While it’s too early in the coronavirus lockdown to understand how nature will react, Emmert said recent studies on behavior of animals in urban environments might provide a clue as to what may be in store down the road.

“We’re learning that animals in urban environments are adapting and staying more active at night,” Emmert said. “Whereas decades before they would not hunt prey at night, it is now becoming more common.”

Emmert expects the increase in trail traffic during comfortable spring days to bring more people in contact with wildlife and she said there are already ODNR concerns for baby animals.

“I think we’re going to see more people come upon fawns or baby rabbits and they’re not going to know what to do,” Emmert said. “We want to stress that it’s best just to leave the wildlife alone and we’re going to have to get that message out there.”

For more information related to wildlife in the state, see wildohio.gov.

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