(WILDLIFE) With more than a billion people worldwide socially distancing themselves to prevent the spread of COVID-19, hoards of wild animals are venturing out into towns and cities where normally the presence of humans would keep them away.
This includes goats in Wales, coyotes in San Francisco, and rats practically everywhere.
Continue reading for more on what wildlife that usually keep their distance do when they are left alone. — Global Animal
New York Times, Sandra E. Garcia
Under the cover of night, in their feathered, silken, cream-colored coats, they trotted into Llandudno, a seaside town in Wales.
On Thursday evening, a herd of Great Orme Kashmiri goats galloped through the desolate streets of the small town looking for food. Some goats got their fill from hedges, others climbed building walls.
“They are very mischievous,” Andrew Stuart, a Llandudno resident who spotted the goats, said in an interview. “They seem a bit wary of humans, they wouldn’t go past me at one point and were very cautious.”
Luckily for the goats, there weren’t many humans around.
More than a billion people worldwide are staying at home under guidance from their governments, socially distancing themselves from one another to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed over 43,000 lives globally, including 2,300 in Britain.
With businesses closed and towns and cities emptied out, people are getting a glimpse of what animals that usually keep their distance do when they are left alone.
I think I just got a group of goats in Llandudno arrested.
Let me explain… first, I saw this from inside a dark pub (the one I live in currently). I thought I was seeing things. So I took some video: pic.twitter.com/RtxYG6htLC
— Andrew Stuart (@AndrewStuart) March 27, 2020
The Great Orme goats ventured out farther than they normally would, Mr. Stuart, 31, said.
The goats live in Great Orme Country Park, in Conwy, Wales. They were a gift from Queen Victoria, from the royal herd, but their descendants are wild animals that roam and forage in the large park.
“They like to come down when it gets a bit windy,” Mr. Stuart said. “When they get down to the bottom of the hills they don’t go much further because there is busy town life. They are known for coming down a bit and causing a bit of mayhem.”
But with the country under lockdown because of the coronavirus, the goats saw an opportunity to get a whiff of their neighboring town and hopped right to it. In the video Mr. Stuart recorded, the goats can be seen running down the middle of a street.
“They were just racing through the town,” said Mr. Stuart, who called a nonemergency police line. “They are in town because it is so quiet, because hardly anyone is about.”
There is also hardly anyone outside in San Francisco — except for the coyotes.
Residents in San Francisco have been under orders to practice social distancing for two weeks, leaving their homes only to buy groceries, go to pharmacies and participate in other essential tasks. The streets have been left to the coyotes, which seem to be venturing farther into the city because there are so few cars, according to Deb Campbell, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Animal Care and Control.
“We have had a lot more reported sightings of them in the streets,” she said. “They are probably wondering where everyone went.”
Social distancing has not increased wild animals’ populations, but it does seem to have changed their behavior in seeking new food sources, said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist at the National Pest Management Association.
“What we are also seeing is that they are looking for food in places they had not before,” he said. “The part of the equation that is missing right now is people.”
Ever since Louisiana imposed a lockdown, causing restaurants to shut down, the rats in New Orleans are almost certainly wondering where the usual French Quarter crowds — and their trash — have gone.
“Animals are opportunistic and feed off trash,” said Claudia Riegel, executive director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board. “The restaurants are producing a lot of trash, and right now, a lot of that is just gone.”
This moment of desperation for the rodents can become an opportunity for communities trying to control the pest population, since rats are more likely to be lured by traps and baits, Dr. Fredericks said.
Dr. Riegel and her team are taking advantage of that.
“We are never going to have this chance again, when most of the restaurants and the buildings are temporarily closed,” she said.
New York City is known for its large population of already brazen rats, including the notorious Pizza Rat. There has not been a change in behavior from pests in the city, according to Katy Hansen, the spokeswoman for the Animal Care Centers of NYC.
“People are not outside leaving food and trash around, so it’s not attracting them,” she said.
But there is a possibility that with the absence of people, and their trash, New York rats become even more brazen in their search for food, as a gang of macaques did in Lopburi, Thailand, last month. The macaques are usually fed by tourists who visit the ancient city, but with an 85 percent drop in tourism, the monkeys became more aggressive in their search for food.
Humans can easily forget that the cities and towns they call home and frequently visit are also home to wild animals, like the Great Orme goats.
“There is not much we can do,” Mr. Stuart said of getting the goats to go home. “There is no sort of truck that they can put them in to get them back up there.”
“They go back of their free will, or when they get bored.”