Take only pictures, leave only… Cameras influence marmot vigilance but not perceptions of risk

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1111/jzo.13032. This is version 1 of this Preprint.

This Preprint has no visible version.

Download Preprint

Download Preprint


Kenta Uchida, Albert A. Burkle, Daniel T. Blumstein


Ecotourism promotes conservation efforts while also allowing for low impact observation of wildlife. Many ecotourists photograph wildlife and photography plays an important role in focusing the public’s attention on nature. Although photography is commonly believed to be a low impact activity, how the visual stimulus of a camera influences wildlife remains unknown. Since animals are known to fear eyes pointed towards them, we predicted that a camera with a large zoom lens would increase animal’s vigilance levels. Using yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer) as a mammalian model, and adopting a behavioural approach to identify how marmots responded to cameras, we experimentally quantified vigilance and flight initiation distance towards humans when marmots were approached with and without a camera. While a camera was pointed at an individual, marmots allocated less time to searching predators and increased time to looking at the observer than they did without a camera. However, whether a camera was pointed at a marmot or not had no effect on the distance the marmot flushed. Our results indicated that cameras distracted marmots but did not influence subsequent risk assessment (i.e., flight initiation distance); marmots may be curious about cameras but were not threatened by them. Capturing animals’ attentions reduces searching for predators and may increase the vulnerability to predation. Therefore, regulating photography in locations where predation risk is high or vulnerable species ranges’ overlap with humans may be required to reduce photography’s impact on wildlife.




Behavior and Ethology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences


Cameras, Ecotourism, Flight initiation distance, Marmota flaviventer, Vigilance, wildlife


Published: 2021-11-20 18:55


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Data and Code Availability Statement:
We uploaded our data in the OSF. Please visit "osf.io/2dcqs"

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.