The United States hasn’t witnessed a total solar eclipse since 1991! Millions upon millions of people are planning to view this rare event, making it one of the most viewed events in history. While many people are aware of the effect that an eclipse has on the sky, most don’t realize that it will also affect the behavior of animals.
What to expect
Animals─especially wild animals─have a natural day-to-day rhythm that’s dictated by the sun. Birds, squirrels, and other diurnal animals seek shelter at dusk and sleep through the night. Nocturnal animals, like bats, crickets, and mice, awaken at dusk to begin their day. And our beloved cats and dogs are generally crepuscular, meaning that they are most awake at dawn and dusk.
While you won’t see as significant a reaction from animals during an eclipse as you would during a thunderstorm or the 4th of July, you can expect to see some disorientation as a result of having their natural cycle disrupted.
Many animals have a keen sense for natural phenomenon and may become nervous or even frightened. But it shouldn’t last long. Totality (when the sun is completely blocked) will only last a couple of minutes for this solar eclipse, so any disorientation you witness should be temporary.
The most noticeable thing you can expect to happen? Silence. Birds will fall silent as they seek shelter in response to the darkness and drop in temperature.
If your dog is used to curling up in its bed at night, or your backyard chickens usually put themselves to bed at dusk, there’s a good chance you’ll see the same behavior occur during the eclipse.
Here are some recorded animal behaviors from various solar eclipses around the world:
- Birds became quiet and began to roost
- Frogs and crickets began to sing
- Bees stayed in the hives
- Butterflies disappeared
- Nocturnal bugs, such as mosquitoes, awoke
- Chickens huddled together or went to roost
- Orb-weaving spiders took down their webs at totality
- Baboons stopped eating and headed to bed
- Impalas stopped foraging and seemed nervous for the rest of the day
- Hippos retreated to the water and seemed nervous for the rest of the day
Possibly the most notable animal behavior is that of the chimpanzee. During the 1984 eclipse, researchers observed a group of chimpanzees climbing onto a high rock to face the eclipse and gaze up at the sky. At one point a young chimp stood and pointed at the eclipse. Sound eerily familiar?
How you can prepare
If you’re taking your pup with you to see the grand event, here are some ways you can prepare:
- Large crowds: Your pet is more likely to be afraid of the large crowds that will gather to see the eclipse than the actual eclipse itself. Keep your dog leashed, and be prepared for yelling, loud sounds, and even fireworks.
- Eye protection: Dogs are less likely to look up at the sun during the eclipse, but keep an extra pair of eye-protecting shades on hand in case they do. If the shades don’t fit or your dog won’t tolerate them, you may need to block or protect your dog from looking up in a different way.
Bug spray for you and your dog: Mosquitoes are nocturnal, but guess what? The eclipse will wake them from their slumber. Be sure to bring bug spray!
Some of us at Pets on Broadway will be watching the solar eclipse, and we hope that you will have the opportunity to see it too! Here’s a fantastic free eclipse guide from Lunt Solar systems that has everything you need to know about this extraordinary event.