Evaluating the impacts of human-mediated disturbances on species’ behaviour and interactions (Doctoral dissertation).Frey, S., 2018.


Developing effective conservation strategies requires an empirical understanding of species’ responses to human-mediated disturbances. Observable responses are typically limited to dramatic changes such as wildlife population declines or range shifts. However, preceding these obvious responses, more subtle responses may signal larger-scale future change, including changes in species’ behaviours and interspecific interactions. Disturbance-induced shifts to species’ diel activity patterns may disrupt mechanisms of niche partitioning along the 24-hour time axis, altering community structure via altered competitive interactions. I investigate the main questions and methods of analysis applicable to camera-trap data for furthering our understanding of temporal dynamics in animal communities. I apply these methods to evaluate the impacts of human-mediated disturbance on species’ activity patterns and temporal niche partitioning in two separate studies, focusing on responses in the mammalian carnivore community. In the Canadian Rocky Mountain carnivore guild, species alter diel activities in relation to anthropogenic landscape development, although these shifts may be manifesting through indirect biotic effects instead of direct responses to human disturbance. Mesocarnivore species on a mixed-use landscape featuring anthropogenic land-use and introduced free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris) shift activities in relation to spatiotemporal dog activity. Native carnivores partition diel activities differently on open landscapes of enhanced predation risk but abundant prey resources. Detecting shifts in species’ temporal behaviours and competitive interactions may enable identification of potential precursors of population declines and shifting community assemblages, providing us with opportunities to pre-emptively manage against such biodiversity losses on human-modified landscapes.

Scientific study compared carnivore behaviour in Kananaskis Country to Willmore Wilderness Park near Jasper

By CBC News

Researcher Sandra Frey says she noticed wolves in K-Country became more nocturnal so as not to bump into people during the day. (Dawn Villella/Associated Press)

New research has found some carnivores in Kananaskis Country have altered their behaviour in response to the presence of humans.

The results come from a University of Victoria master’s student, who studied data from motion-triggered cameras in Kananaskis and the more remote Willmore Wilderness Park north of Jasper.

Sandra Frey says she noticed wolves in K-Country became more nocturnal so as not to bump into people during the day.

“If animals are changing how they’re active over the day, it also changes the way they’re going to be interacting and competing with other species and might also impact the way that these species are able to co-exist with each other,” Frey told the Calgary Eyeopener.

She says there was a marked difference in the behaviour of the wolves in Kananaskis, where there’s much more human presence.

“We know that humans generally are more active during the daytime. If they’re going to go hiking in the Kananaskis, it’s not likely to be during the night.

“And it’s the same with traffic. It’s generally more of a presence during the daytime and wolves are responding to that by basically shifting their activity, shifting their behaviours, into the nighttime.”

Frey says these behavioural shifts could help to detect future changes to species numbers, and help pre-emptively manage losses in the future.

via: Wolves adjust sleeping habits to avoid human contact, research suggests | CBC News