Report: Out of doors recreation impacts Washington wildlife in advanced methods, highlighting potential shift in administration


The science is clear – or at least as clear as science has ever been – outdoor recreation affects wild animals and mostly not positively.

Numerous recreational ecology studies have shown that animals change their behavior in response to the presence of humans. A recent study from the University of Washington put it in a nutshell: In some of Alaska’s most remote areas, any human presence caused wild animal presence to suffer greatly.

But this is Alaska and this is Washington, and it’s always good to know what’s happening locally. That was precisely the goal of a Conservation Northwest report that reviewed the known science. Released earlier this month, this report examined how outdoor recreation affects 15 specific species in Washington.

“This literature review helps shed light on the finer information needed to move forward,” said Kurt Hellmann, Advocacy Associate at Conservation Northwest.

“At a time when we have such significant habitat loss and a changing climate, recovery could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for healthy wildlife populations.”

The report was co-published by Home Range Wildlife Research, a Methow Valley-based organization.

The report does not offer a silver bullet, noting that many of the species are already threatened and that while recovery is not the cause of this decline, “even a small range overlap with recovery in key habitats and during sensitive times could prove beneficial, particularly for Animals proving harmful are sensitive to human disturbance.”

For example, the literature review found that “off-trail and unpredictable forms of recreation have negative impacts on moose at the population level,” while more predictable forms of recreation, such as B. hikers on an established trail are better tolerated by moose.

The review also found that moose were more negatively impacted by motorized recreation than other forms of recreation, leading the authors to conclude that motorized recreation should be “carefully considered” in moose habitat.

However, the effects and causes of these impacts vary widely, as evidenced by the review of the Recreational Activities Impact on Mule Deer Report. Unlike moose, mule deer appeared less disrupted by motorized recreation and more disrupted by non-motorized recreation, as walking, bicycling, and horseback riding elicited “higher rates of movement than ORV riding.”

Like moose, off-trail and therefore less predictable recovery, troubled mule deer more.

There were similar results for all species types, but a summary of the mule deer results suggest a possible shift in recreational management priorities.

“Finally, the spatial arrangement and number of trails that intersect with mule deer habitat should be considered in recreation management plans. For example, Price and Strombum (2014) suggest that constructing trails near areas with already high concentrations of human activity may reduce mule deer’s short-term responses to recovery (since these deer may be more accustomed to humans). it in the report.

This represents a titanic shift in recovery management.

For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been to spread out users, reduce human impact on trails, and provide a better, less crowded experience for hikers, cyclists, bird watchers, hunters, and others.

This can be just the wrong thing to do when it comes to animal welfare.

“It’s an important thing and a huge paradigm shift that you’ll probably see from a land manager’s perspective,” Hellmann said.

“Most of the science says there may be benefits in reducing the recovery’s geographic footprint.”

To read the full report, visit