The crackle and fizz of fireworks exploding in the sky in a hail of intense color is the highlight of many festivals and celebrations. But have you ever taken a moment to imagine how your local wildlife feels about it?
Fear, including the fear of loud noises, is deeply rooted in the evolutionary history of all animals. Staying away from dangerous situations increases survival. For example, hiding away from loud thunderstorms and escaping from the noise of falling rocks may save an animal’s life.
But there is nowhere to hide from the fireworks. What must it be like for wild animals that delight us during walks and picnics until we encounter such an inescapable sound?
Unfortunately, scientists don’t know so much about exactly how fireworks affect animals that they are hard to notice at night. But what we have learned is alarming. Our latest studyone of the first to study how fireworks affect wildlife, showed how physically distressed animals – in this case geese – were made by New Year’s fireworks celebrations.
Physiological responses can be good measures of emotional arousal in animals, allowing this Researchers for evaluation Whether the animals are relaxed or afraid. Increased heart rate and body temperature are reliable measures of stress. In the long term, increased emotional stimulation is an indicator of poor animal welfare.
Our study investigated the physiological responses of wild greylag geese in response to New Year’s Eve fireworks in a rural area of Austria. We fitted 20 greylag geese with transmitters, which recorded a two-minute average of heart rate and core body temperature.
Heart rate and daily body temperature patterns were compared between hourly December 31, January 1, mean values for December and average values for January. In the first hour of the year (when the fireworks displays peak), heart rates and body temperature rise.
Compared to average values during December, the hourly heart rate increased from 63 to 124 beats per minute (a 96% increase). Average hourly body temperature increased from 38°C to 39°C. Heart rate returned to baseline levels between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on January 1, while body temperature did not decrease until around 5 a.m.
Physiological responses may be due to the flight of geese during fireworks. They flew over the area of their corpses, until they finally landed again – a severe disturbance in their night rest. It is also a waste of precious energy during a period of the year when food is scarce.
Interestingly, there were clear differences between some people and some geese did not show an increase in heart rate and body temperature in response to the fireworks. This indicates that some wild animals, such as dogs, are less afraid than others.
Our results reflect other examples of how fireworks affect birds. One study showed Thousands of birds fly at altitudes of 500 meters for 45 minutes after New Year’s Eve fireworks in the Netherlands between 2007 and 2010, much higher than the altitude of daytime flight which shows just how turbulent the fireworks can be.
In 2021, Hundreds of dead starlings Found after New Year’s Eve celebrations in Rome. The exact reasons behind their deaths are unknown, but We know loud noises It causes panic reactions in animals that can be fatal if they run into obstacles or get lost and separated from their herd.
We know too wild animals They suffer from chronic stress and fertility problems and change their migration routes in response to noise. Animals can also be more sensitive to noise than humans and have different auditory ranges.
Fireworks and pets
Many pet owners are fully aware of the effects of sounds and light on their companions. in Study 2019 Using an online survey, 52% of dog owners said their pets were afraid of fireworks, displaying behaviors such as panting, shivering, hiding, and running away.
Noise sensitivity can develop in dogs like puppies but it can also have a genetic basis, with some breeds being affected more than others. For example, Great Danes were found to be among the least afraid of loud noises and the Norwegian Bohund was among the most fearsome breeds in the world. Study 2015 Compare 17 breeds.
The effects of fireworks on the well-being of less common pets such as parrots, reptiles, amphibians or even fish have never been scientifically studied.
Given what we learn about the effect of fireworks on wildlife, it’s no surprise that some places ban them outright
In 2021, the UK’s popular holiday company middle parks I decided to permanently cancel all fireworks displays to protect wildlife and instead illuminate the holiday camp forests with Enchanted Light Park. Herefordshire Council Prohibited loud fireworks launched from council-owned land in January 2022, in part in response to concerns about animal welfare.
There has also been a growing acceptance of alternatives to fireworks, such as laser displays or drones. The global market for drone offerings has been estimated It is expected to grow by 18.2% through 2027. Perhaps as the impact of fireworks on animals becomes more apparent, these technological solutions will become more common.
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