Humans impact wildlife in numerous ways. The most serious being direct habitat destruction due to the expansion of urban landscapes, farmland, logging, and other activities that consume natural resources. However, even outdoor recreation in relatively protected areas can exert an influence. While consumptive outdoor recreational activities, like hunting and fishing, directly impact wildlife populations, non-consumptive outdoor recreation, like hiking or mountain biking, can impact wildlife in less overt ways. Simply the presence of humans in a natural area can disrupt normal animal behavior and drive animals away from important resources. In this study we used trail cameras to examine the impact of human traffic on the rate of wildlife detection on a private trail system in southeastern Tennessee during the Fall mating season. 92.9% of total camera sightings were from humans or domestic animals (i.e. domestics dogs) while only 7.1% were from native wildlife with most of these sighting (55.9%) coming from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Analysis using Poisson generalized estimating equations (GEEs) suggested an inverse relationship between the intensity of human traffic and the rate of wildlife detection. Analysis also showed that the portion of the trail system that had been developed the longest (since 2001) had lower cumulative wildlife detection and species richness than the portion of the trails system developed more recently (2016). An analysis of the time of day sightings occurred showed that peak activity for wildlife did not overlap with human activity. Wildlife sightings peaked in the morning while human activity peaked in the later afternoon/evening. Overall, these results confirm previous research that suggests that non-consumptive outdoor recreation can have significant effects on the abundance and behavior of wildlife.
Hesler, Katherine and Corbit, Aaron G., "The Impact of Human Traffic on Wildlife Abundance on a Recreational Trail System in Southeastern Tennessee" (2018). Research in Biology. 9.