Could the COVID-19 pandemic have a big long-term impact on human-wildlife encounters in Ontario?
In a recent report, Global News asked several experts what immediate and long-term effects the self-isolation requirements would have on urban wildlife.
The report probes whether "With the sudden decline in human and vehicle traffic on sidewalks and roads, Canadians [will] start to see more wildlife in their towns and cities?" It goes on to point out that "Experts say it’s possible."
The self-isolation requirements, experts point out, are likely to have different effects on the species that are accustomed to living in close proximity to humans (e.g., raccoons, skunks, squirrels, etc.) and those that tend to avoid "humanized landscapes." The major effect on the wildlife that tend to avoid populated areas could be that as cities and towns begin to appear less-populated and quiter, some animals may start venturing into urban areas. This could result in more sightings of, say, bears.
"According to Moola, there may be more bears that will wander into some Canadian towns because they can cross highways with less risk of getting hit by a vehicle or train."
The pandemic and our response to it could have a more drastic affect on the urban wildlife. The article, again, discusses the possible impact of decreasing road-traffic over animal behaviours and populations. Fewer cars on the road could mean fewer roadkill.
However, the author and the experts consulted do not discuss another major (potential) impact the COVID-19 could have on the urban wildlife. The closure of restaurants and cafes will mean the large organic garbage bins behind those commercial establishments will remain empty. Raccoons, squirrels, and many other urban wildlife tend to get their food from those bins. On the other hand, with more people staying at home and consuming more food in their residences, there could be a significant increase in the organic waste placed in the residential green bins across Ontario municipalities. How are these subtle changes likely to affect human-wildlife encounters around Toronto?
Another possible effect is that the economic slow-down could decrease the pace of urbanization. That particular change, however, is likely to be quite short-lived.
The biggest determinant, of course, will be the duration and extent of these self-isolation measures. If the self-isolation measures remain in place longer, human-wildlife relationship in our communities may begin to change in more drastic ways.
Would the pandemic lead to a more eco-conscious outlook among Canadians? The article concludes by suggesting that "the only way COVID-19 self-isolation will have a positive impact on biodiversity and wildlife is if humans begin to develop a new relationship with animals."
Here is a link to the original article.