After monitoring the heartbeats of black bears researchers discovered that they are not healthy for the animals even though their main purpose is to watch over wildlife and ensure that they are protected from harm.
Even though the bears did not flee when they heard the sound of drones their heart rates increased, which is a sign of major stress. The research team used GPS collars to track black bears and cardiac monitors to analyze their heart rates. Four adult bears were involved in the study. They experienced 18 flights in an area were using drones was allowed. The drones flew about 20 meters above the bears.
After the researchers recorded data about the black bears’ movements they let the animals hibernate and afterwards evaluated their heart rates. The lead author of the study, Mark Ditmer from the University of Minnesota, explained that at least in one of the cases they observed a severe stress response. While a drone was circling over their head a mother bear and her two cubs displayed a heart rate spike of 400 percent. Their hear rate jumped from 41 beats per minute to 162 beats.
The researchers decided to conduct this study because the use of drones for research has increased lately and they were curious to find out how the animals respond to them. Ditmer explained that only because researchers cannot see a change in the behavior of the animals that does not mean that their reaction is not negative.
The stress response is helpful for animals in real-life situations when there is an emergency. However the drones are creating chronic stress for the black bears and other animals. On the long run this could be harmful since among other issues stress is linked with disease susceptibility.
In fact this is not the first time when concerns regarding drones were raised. In 2014 the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) was banned from parks by the United States Park Service. What lead to this decision was an incident when a low flying drone made a herd of sheep scatter and as a result lambs were separated from their mother. This happened in Zion National Park in Utah.
Image Source: Daily Mail