The total solar eclipse is almost here and people are amped up over the possibilities that come along with this event. Superstitions offer the hope of finding love, to the fun of watching your friends and family act odd as if they were under the spell of 10 full moons. Old wives tales will find their way to the surface the closer the solar eclipse gets.
There is one area that people are ready to explore, as the solar eclipse makes its way across the nation this month, and that is animal behavior. This is more scientifically based than some of the other avenues people are ready to observe as the eclipse approaches. It is commonly known that events in nature do have an effect on our furry friends.
Pet owners know just how sensitive their cats and dogs are when it comes to their reactions to the different events in nature like a thunderstorm or earthquake. But since a solar eclipse like the one due on August 21 hasn’t happened in a while in North America, this eclipse offers up a great opportunity for zoo keepers and pet owners alike to take in the behaviors exhibited by those with four legs.
When Mother Nature starts to rumble from beneath the ground, even if you don’t feel that earthquake yet, more than likely your animals do. The same goes for the sound of thunder, while it might be out of ear-shot for you, your animals are acting a bit skitterish long before that storm hits.
Folks have made millions of dollars developing products to calm your animals during a thunderstorm or if fireworks are going off somewhere near you. One of the more popular items being the heavy and secure jackets you put on your dog, like the ThunderShirt brand.
According to CNN News, people across the nation have plans on keeping tabs on zoo animals during the solar eclipse this month. This will also be a great time for pet owners to observe how their four-legged family members react. Will animals react to the sun being shut off and the temperature dropping during this event? The California Academy of Sciences is asking for you to comment online about your observations of your pets during the eclipse, as seen in the post below.
While a solar eclipse is not a rare event, a total solar eclipse like the one that is happening over a populated area is.
“The only total eclipses that have happened in the last 40 years in the US were in 1979 (in the northwest part of the country only) and 1991 (Hawaii only),” according to the website, Eclipse.
Adam Hartstone-Rose, an adjunct scientist at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, has some insight into what we know about animals during a solar eclipse and from what he says, that’s not much.
“There are many more scientific papers about Sasquatch than about animal behavior during an eclipse.”
The zoo where he works has been fielding calls from people asking about what their plans are during the eclipse, as their zoo is in the path of totality for the eclipse. While the path for viewing the full total eclipse is long, it is not very wide. There’s a few animal parks or zoos in the path of this year’s solar eclipse, like the Riverbanks Zoo.
The path for the 2017 total eclipse goes from central Oregon through South Carolina. The path of totality is only about 70 miles wide, which is seen here on the maps for the 2017 solar eclipse from Eclipse. With that path going over the Riverbanks Zoo, the public has a chance to see just what, if anything, happens with the animals.
Another zoo getting into the spirit of eclipse watching is the Nashville Zoo. Not only will they be handing out eclipse-viewing glasses, but they will enlist the help of zoo visitors in their quest of documenting the animals’ behaviors during the eclipse. They ask that folks leave their observations on their social media page or use the app, INaturalist, to make comments.
The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga will be keeping a close eye on their lemurs before, during, and after the eclipse. During past eclipse events, there was some evidence that the lemurs “behave oddly.” The chimps at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago are going to have eyes on them during the solar eclipse, as the folks at the zoo are betting the chimps will have some reaction to the event.
So what do the experts predict? While Ed Diehold, the director at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, isn’t expecting “giraffes doing back flips,” they are curious as to what they will see with animal behavior that day. Animals at the zoo have exhibited “interesting behavior” during past eclipse events, but this time it is a total eclipse.
So what are the experts expecting to see? Hartstone-Rose is looking for some of the animals that are vocal, to become more vocal. They will also be watching to see if some of the animals get ready for bedtime, or do their nighttime rituals before turning in, thinking that night has come. He said he is also watching for other animals to possibly wake-up during the eclipse. Nocturnal creatures that sleep during the day may wake up, thinking the night has come and that it is time to prowl.
Scientists have documented their observations about animals during solar eclipse events for centuries. In the 1500s, a scientist noted that the birds “fell” out of the trees and “stopped singing.” Scientists in Mexico noticed lizards acting like it was bedtime during the 1997 total solar eclipse.
Back in 1997, the New England Eclipse Behavior Committee had observers, both skilled and unskilled, send in their observations of animal behavior during that eclipse. The observations they collected cited chickens huddling together, painted turtles heading for shelter, bees stopped humming, butterflies disappeared, hippos remained on “alert” partially hidden underwater, and captive squirrels became agitated. Cows, on the other hand, seemed totally oblivious to the solar eclipse.
Pets, just normal everyday pets, like your dogs and cats, did have some different behaviors, along with pet birds and rabbits. The rabbits mostly slept and some of the birds became agitated. Dogs showed a variety of behaviors from ignoring the eclipse to getting scared during the event. Some barked when it was over. Most of the cat reports had the felines sleeping, some did meow, but mostly the cats slept.
What will your pet do when the 2017 solar eclipse rolls across the nation next week? Animal experts are suggesting that you keep your animals inside so they don’t look up at the eclipse, as they too can damage their eyes.
[Featured Image by Anna Titova/Shutterstock]