Bears Are Getting Used to Drones

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A new study found something black bears and humans have in common.

Drones are all over the place nowadays, and they're having an impact on wildlife. On one hand, scientists are using them to research and possibly help animals. On the other, nobody likes drones flying above their heads all the time, animals included.

"The popularity of unmanned aircraft systems among recreationalists, researchers and conservationists has increased tremendously in recent years and represents a new potential stress to wildlife," a new study in Conservation Physiology notes.

So a group of scientists tried to figure out how drones affected black bears in Minnesota. They did this by, predictably, flying drones over the bears five times a day, twice a week (ugh, poor bears).

The scientists found that the bears' heart rates increased when the drones first started flying overhead. But after a few weeks their hearts stopped beating so fast when the drones showed up. When the scientists even stopped flying the drones for 118 days and started again, they found the bears still didn't react much to the drones. So apparently, bears get used to drones.

Not that people should fly drones over wildlife all the time. Animals that aren't used to drones — which is most of them — still freak out when drones show up.

"It's important to note that the individual bears in this study did show a stress response to the initial drone flights," the scientists wrote in a press statement. "Close-proximity drone flights near wildlife should be avoided without a valid purpose. However, our findings do show that drone use in conservation, for things such as anti-poaching patrols, can provide benefits without long-term high-stress consequences."