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Could Tagging Animals Make Them Prey?

seal
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Could the methods used for studying animals actually get them killed?

For many years, researchers have been using acoustic tags to study the lives and movements of marine wildlife. Many different species, from seals to squid to sharks to turtles, have been studied through the use of acoustic tags. A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, now suggests that tagging animals may get them eaten.

Image Courtesy of Discovery News
Discovery News

Lead author of the study and researcher Amanda Stansbury from the University of St. Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit found that the clicks emitted by ultrasonic tags, while outside the hearing range of humans, most likely sounds like a series of clicks to seals and other marine mammals. Stansbury says,

Any animal who can perceive sound would be expected to be capable of learning associations between sound signals and food.

Marine species are by no means the only who can associate certain sounds with food. Many species, from cats to elephants, posses the intelligence to hear certain sounds and expect a meal.

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The question is, how could this information be used by recreational hunters and fisherman? For those who chase freshwater fish in areas with large aquatic predators (gators, bull sharks, etc.), could the sounds you make actually be drawing the monsters to you? Many marine mammals are known to associate the sounds made by humans fishing with food; could this be true on island waterways as well?

Could this information also apply to hunters? Many North America predators (wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, etc.) are extremely intelligent animals; could they begin to associate the presence of humans with the presence of a meal? If so, the results could be less-than-ideal.

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Could Tagging Animals Make Them Prey?