Posted on August 17, 2017
How Will Our Animals Respond to the Eclipse?
I’m mighty lucky in that a short hike to a clearing in the woods adjoining my property will place me in the zone of totality (I simply love this expression) for the upcoming eclipse. And the best part is, I suspect that, other than my husband and me, only deer, birds, bears, coyotes, turkeys, bobcats, and other wildlife know about this clearing.
True confession- I’m really not a big fan of astronomy. Nonetheless, the experience of delving into darkness at 2:30 in the afternoon sounds pretty darned exciting. I just read an Annie Dillard essay called “Total Eclipse” in which she treats the reader to this fabulous line- “Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.” Her essay, and this metaphor in particular, has amped up my eclipse excitement exponentially!
And then there is the anticipation of what I will see immediately following the eclipse. Will nocturnal animals be out and about, lured from their nests, dens and burrows by the midday darkness? Perhaps on our return hike from the woods we’ll be treated to the sight of a skunk, or raccoon, or owl. How cool would that be!
I’ve heard some people express concern about how their pets and livestock will fare during the eclipse. I’ve received questions such as, “Should I keep the dogs and cats inside?” and “Should I put a fly mask on my horse?” In terms of eye protection, I’ve been providing reassurance that there is no need to worry. Just as is true for any other day, there’s nothing about the eclipse that will compel our animals to look directly at the sun. Dogs, cats, pigs, horses, goats, chickens, etc. simply don’t stargaze, moon gaze or sun gaze.
What I don’t know for sure is if the eclipse will elicit any behavioral changes in our critters. Might they experience anxiety, curiosity, fear, or confusion? I suspect some will, particularly those who reside at the anxious end of the behavioral spectrum (I live with one of these). I predict that, for the vast majority of our furry and feathered family members, the eclipse will be nothing more than a “yawn” moment.
If eclipse-related animal behavior has piqued your curiosity, I encourage you to check out the iNaturalist app. The California Academy of Sciences invites you and other citizen scientists to use this app to record and submit what your animal does during the eclipse. Your data will become part of a project called Life Responds.
I hope you manage to enjoy the eclipse wherever you are and please tell me about any interesting animal responses you observe!
Nancy Kay, DVM
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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