Animals See Humans as Super Predators (and We Don’t Blame Them)

Humans can be super predators, too.

Many of Earth’s creatures see humans as super predators. And no, that title is not as great as it sounds.

The old research

Let us explain what super predator means. Basically, some scientists think that a number of different species of animals view humans as the ultimate killing machine. These animals may even fear humans more than other predatory animals, such as wolves, lions, and bears.

“Humans have diverged from other predators in behavior and influence,” the first study, which appeared in the journal Science in 2015, reports.

“Geographic expansion, exploitation of naïve prey, killing technology, symbioses with dogs, and rapid population growth, among other factors, have long imposed profound impacts—including widespread extinction and restructuring of food webs and ecosystems—in terrestrial and marine systems.”

The possibly new-to-you term was coined in a 2015 report that detailed the impact humans have on the world.

We’re sure you can probably easily glean why being a super predator isn’t great, but just to be safe, we’ll clearly state why some people are concerned: predatory human behavior can disrupt the overall ecosystem.

The new research

Researchers in Ontario recently conducted another similar study based on badger behavior in the United Kingdom, specifically in Wytham Woods.

The Western University in Ontario, Canada study attempted to learn how badgers would react to different predators, including humans. To track the badgers’ activity, the researchers set up motion-activated video cameras around several setts (also know as badger dens).

“At the beginning of the night, the scientists played sound bites of bears, wolves, dogs, sheep, and finally humans, capturing the badgers’ reactions on the cameras when they finally ventured out to look for food,” Treehugger reports.

“The researchers found that bear and dog sounds delayed foraging but that badgers would eventually emerge from their homes to feed while the animal sounds were still playing. Sounds of humans, however, discouraged some badgers from leaving their burrows altogether. Those that did eventually leave in search for food waited 189%-228% longer than badgers exposed to bear or dogs sounds, with more than half of the badgers waiting until the human sounds stopped playing completely before leaving their homes. Hearing human voices also reduced the time that badgers spent foraging and led to increased vigilance. All of these results point to an unprecedented level of fear in badgers when they are exposed to human noises.”

The problem

So, okay. Badgers really don’t like humans.

But as we stated before, this research implies a much deeper, destructive problem.

“Our previous research has shown that the fear large carnivores inspire can itself shape ecosystems,” Dr. Liana Zanette, one of the authors of the study, states.

“These new results indicate that the fear of humans, being greater, likely has even greater impacts on the environment, meaning humans may be distorting ecosystem processes even more than previously imagined,” she adds.

“These results have important implications for conservation, wildlife management and public policy.”

We agree, Dr. Zanette. So, come on, humans. Let’s do better and back off.

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Image of predator via Shutterstock

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.