By Carl Engelking
Are drones truly unbearable? Mark Ditmer, a wildlife researcher at the University of Minnesota, has been asking himself that question a lot lately.
Last year, Ditmer grabbed headlines when he published evidence in the journal Current Biology suggesting drones, UAVs, UAS — whatever you want to call them — might be stressing out wild black bears. Basically, when the bears spotted, or heard, Ditmer’s drone overhead, cardiac biologgers fitted on the bears indicated their heart rates soared, a possible sign of acute stress.
“Given how the media are pretty interested in drones right now, we knew (the study) would get some attention. It was a little overwhelming,” says Ditmer. “Who doesn’t love a good bear story?”
Will drones always accelerate the pace of a black bear’s ticker? Were the bears actually stressed or just entering a state of heightened awareness? Ditmer’s first study raised more questions than answers, but he’s designed a new experiment, literally launched last week, to gather more evidence about bears’ relationship with drones.