Report: Outdoor Recreation Affects Washington’s Wildlife in Complex Ways, Highlights Potential Shift in Management

The science is clear — or at least as clear as science has always been — outdoor recreation affects wild animals, and not in mostly positive ways.

Numerous ergonomics studies have shown that animals change their behavior in response to human presence. Recently, a University of Washington study put a good point on this: iIn some remote areas of Alaska, no human presence at all has caused a significant decline in the presence of wild animals.

But this is Alaska and Washington, and it’s always good to know what’s going on locally. Which was exactly the goal of the Northwest Conservation Report to review known science. This report was published earlier this month and looked at how outdoor recreation affects 15 specific species in Washington.

“This literature report helps illuminate the precise information needed moving forward,” said Kurt Hellmann, advocacy coordinator for Conservation Northwest.

“At a time when we are facing significant habitat loss and climate change, recreation can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for healthy populations of wildlife.”

The report was co-authored by Home Range Wildlife Research, an organization based in Methu Valley.

The report offers no silver bullets, noting that many species are already at risk and that while recreation is not the cause of these declines “even a small amount of range interferes with recreation in important habitats and during sensitive periods can be harmful to animals particularly sensitive to disturbances.” Humanity “.

For example, a review of the literature found that “unpredictable and unpredictable forms of recreation have negative population-level effects on elk” while more predictable forms of recreation, such as hikers on a steady course, are better tolerated by elk.

The review also found that elk were more negatively affected by mechanized recreation than other forms of recreation, leading the authors to conclude that mechanized recreation in elk habitat should be “carefully considered”.

But the effects and causes of these effects vary widely, as evidenced by the report’s review of the effects of recreation on mule deer. Unlike elk, mule deer appear to be less disturbed by motorized recreation and more disturbed by non-motorized recreation with hiking, biking, and horseback riding resulting in “higher motion rates than ORV riding.”

Like elk, off the trail and thus less predictable entertainment, mule deer are more restless.

There were similar results across all species, but the summary of results for mule deer suggests a possible shift in recreation management priorities.

Finally, the spatial arrangement and number of trails should be considered in recreation management plans that overlap mule deer habitat. For example, Price and Strombum (2014) suggest that building trails near areas with already high concentrations of human activity can reduce Deer’s short-term responses to recreation (since these deer may be more accustomed to humans),” the report reads.

This represents a major shift in entertainment management.

For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been to spread out users, reduce human impacts on trails and provide hikers, cyclists, bird watchers, hunters, and more with a better, less crowded experience.

This may be exactly the wrong thing to do when it comes to animal welfare.

“This is something significant and a huge paradigm shift that you’ll likely see from an Earth manager’s perspective,” Hillman said.

“A lot of the science says maybe reducing the geographic footprint of entertainment can be beneficial.”

To read the full report, visit

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