How to Protect Pets and Animals during the Solar Eclipse on August 21,

How to Protect Pets and Animals during the Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017

Santosh Varughese Jul, 14 2017

There is an incredible level of excitement in knowing that you will be sharing a once in a lifetime opportunity in viewing a total solar eclipse. As you plot out your course, make plans to travel or if you are lucky enough to be in the path of totality, you will also be preparing for safety with eclipse glasses for you and your companions.

However, there are additional alerts when it comes to the eclipse in ensuring that all pets and animals are also safe.

Animal Protection

Pets and animals should not look directly at the eclipse. While most should be fine, it is best to keep all animals in a sheltered location to avoid potential cornea damage. Florida State College, Jacksonville, FL astronomy professor, Mike Reynolds indicates: "Safe solar viewing is always a must, no matter who it is." Additional experts, such as University of Missouri director of astronomy and astrophysics, Angela Speck has said: "On a normal day, your pets don't try to look at the sun, and therefore don't damage their eyes.  And on this day, they're not going to do it, either."

There are some pet parents that will take extra precautions through the use of eclipse glasses for their pets. But putting glasses on our pets is not a normal situation and if you have a skittish pet, putting eclipse glasses on them could be a moot point as it might create stress or they may try to remove them.

Animal Behavior Changes during an Eclipse

During a solar eclipse, the moon will slowly move to create a sense of darkness, emulating the same kind of dark that occurs naturally for nighttime. This triggers animal behavior into acting as they would when dusk and then night occurs. There will be a state of silence as songbirds stop singing and any animals that are nocturnal, such as bats and owls will be alerted to begin their night actions.  Farm animals may seek out a place to rest and sleep and this behavior might also be seen in domesticated pets.

 A majority of animals in the wild will try to adopt their natural nighttime behavior. This was studied during the June 2001 total solar eclipse when a team of researchers at the Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe group monitored some of the species in the Mana Pools National Park. When the eclipse began to occur, the hippos entered the water, potentially making the assumption that it was evening. 

They wandered the river bottom and grazed on the banks until the eclipse was over and sunlight returned. The hippo herd did exhibit a state of confusion as well as possible apprehension that continued throughout the balance of the day.

In the same study, they observers noted that many of the birds, including egrets, ibis, and hornbills were flying to their nighttime roosts as the eclipse occurred. Baboons and impalas stopped their foraging during the eclipse and while the baboons headed to their evening sleeping areas, they stopped when the sun returned to daylight. Impalas were alert and skittish following the end of the eclipse. Other animal species such as butterflies, squirrels, elephants, lions, crocodiles, and warthogs didn’t display any observable effects.

The G.U. Kurup and R.K.G. Menon study in the Tamil Nadu, India Guindy Forest in the 1980 eclipse included observations of the behavior of the blackbuck antelope. As the eclipse happened, the blackbucks turned to their resting locations, slowed down their rates of walking, standing, and grazing and then resumed normal activities after the eclipse occurred.

Animals in captivity have also been monitored for changes in behavior during an eclipse. The Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center had the opportunity to watch a group of captive chimpanzees during the 1984 solar eclipse for behavioral changes. Their observations entailed observation two days prior to the eclipse and for a full day following the eclipse. As the eclipse began to move forward, the temperatures dropped and darkness began to occur. The female chimpanzees, including mothers with babies, climbed up to their nighttime resting areas and were then followed by other chimpanzees. The chimps seemed to know that something was off as they stared in the direction of the eclipse. One of the researchers made note that “One juvenile stood upright and gesturing in the direction of the sun and moon.” Post eclipse behavior showed that the chimps gradually dispersed and as they were monitored, the researchers didn’t see any abnormal behavior. The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Primatology.

During the 1991 total solar eclipse, other researchers were observing the colonial orb-weaving spiders in Mexico for any behavioral changes. During the eclipse, many of the spiders in natural light started to take their webs apart. Those in artificial light did not exhibit that behavior. A majority of the spiders that had dismantled their webs began building them again once the eclipse had passed.

The Eclipse May Frighten Them

We may be devoted to our domesticated furred family members and you might consider taking them along with you on your journey to enjoy the total solar eclipse.  It is not advised to take your pets with you as this situation may scare them and they may bolt or run away. Leave your pets in a protected area and cared for by people that can watch them while you are away.

The advent of social media has allowed various people around the globe to share their pet experiences during a total solar eclipse. In March 2015, individuals in the U.K. took to Twitter to post the behavior and reactions of their pets. They reported everything from animal confusion to the wonder of the silence of nature during the eclipse. This was also a perfect opportunity for the ZSL London (zoo) to detail the responses of the animals. Head of Invertebrates, Dave Clarke posted “A solar eclipse, especially a full eclipse, could affect the flight of nocturnal moths and diurnal butterflies, who use light for navigation.” In this case, they didn’t report any unusual behaviors.  

However, that was not always the situation as some people were reporting that their cats and other animals were ‘going nuts’ and farm animals were ‘acting weird’. Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Cambridge, Donald Broom reported: 'Farm animals out in the fields might stop grazing and move to a more sheltered place as they do at night…. adding that “because all animals have 24-hour body clocks, they know it is not night time but that something unusual is going on.”

He indicated that cats and dogs may be slightly disturbed, something that was verified from pet owners on social media. Broom indicated that dogs will probably be more alert, paying attention to the activities around them more due to the fact that they are ‘slightly surprised’. Other reports from pet parents during this particular eclipse included dogs howling and running around, one dog chewing on an armchair and general acting ‘weird’ and hens that went to bed.

It is a good idea to include extra precautions for caring for your indoor and outdoor pets and animals. Ensure that they have shelter to escape to, that they don’t have an opportunity to run away and that they have companionship to reassure them in case they are frightened. This will allow you to enjoy the total solar eclipse with peace of mind for the animal’s welfare.

Resources & More Information

For answers to 76 Frequently Asked Questions on this Solar Eclipse, Click HERE for FAQ

For Google Map of the PATH of TOTALITY across the USA, Click HERE for Solar Eclipse MAP

For State by State Information on this Solar Eclipse, Click HERE for INFO

For T-shirts, mugs, pillows, tote bags to celebrate, to commemorate, Click HERE for GEAR

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