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How Human Sounds Impact Wildlife

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HELENA - We all enjoy the silence of being outdoors, but let's face it, we can make a lot of noise. In this week's Outdoor Report, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks shows us a new science looking at human noise impacts on wildlife.

Humans can make a lot of noise, but our understanding of how these sounds may impact the natural world is still new.

"There has really been a growing interest in the affects of introduced noise on wildlife," said Sarah Reed, with the Wildlife Conservation Society. "Some of that comes from just growing a realization about the affects of the different human activities on wildlife, but also it comes from the technological advances."

One of these technological advances is a computer program, designed by Reed, to predict how human caused noises impact natural environments. This program allows users to consider various factors when determining where sounds might impact wildlife on the landscape.

"In some cases, there are animals that will avoid or limit their use of areas that are noisy due to introduced human noise," added Reed. "There is also quite a lot of evidence that sound can interrupt communication for vocal animal species. It also interrupts the ability of predators and prey to locate each other. And then in some cases, they are showing that the disturbance from introduced noise is great enough that it can impact reproductive success."

Today, Reed and the Wildlife Conservation Society are in the Madison Valley, studying how residential sub division sounds may impact wildlife.

"There is quite a wide variety of things people do on their private lands, and we don't really have a good understanding of which are likely to impact what wildlife species occur there and which aren't."

And while Reed's computer program has made analyzing sound on the landscape easier, there is still a lot to learn about wildlife and sound.

"I think we have not only a potential to learn more about how we are impacting wildlife, but also to understand more how wildlife are using their acoustic environment to navigate, to use their habitat, to find mates, etc," Reed said.

Reed's sound modeling program is a free download for ArcGis.

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