2024 Eclipses | How Did the Animals at Turpentine Creek React?

During an eclipse, animals may exhibit various behaviors depending on the species and their sensitivity to changes in light and temperatures. Since animals do not have a clock, weather person, or technology to structure their day-to-day like humans, they rely on changes in light and temperature. These light and temperature fluctuations mimic a sunset when a solar eclipse occurs. In the wild, it is common to see crepuscular species of animals (active at dawn and dusk) and nocturnal species of animals (active at night) become more active. In contrast, diurnal (active during the day) animals become less active.

Other observable changes to animal behaviors include birds ceasing to sing. As bats fly out to hunt, insects like bees disappear, moths become active, squirrels seek shelter, and skunks come out to forage. 

The eclipse was at 98.5% totality in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, so we were very curious to see how the animals at Turpentine Creek would react. Here are a few facts based on science that we knew going into the event.

  • Leopards are nocturnal, while the other cat species at the Refuge are crepuscular. 
  • Black bears are mostly diurnal.
  • Grizzly bears shift from nocturnal in the early spring and summer to crepuscular and diurnal in the late summer and fall. 

Another key fact we had to consider is that the animals at the Refuge are much more unpredictable than their wild counterparts. Because they come from the exotic pet trade, subjected to speed breeding and generations of neglect and abuse, it would be very likely that their behaviors would not be the same as animals in the wild. 

We created a plan amongst our Animal Care Staff, stationing them strategically throughout the Refuge to best observe the animals. Most of the cats did not change their behaviors. Some cats looked up to the sky in confusion as it became darker. Those in their dens came out to investigate once the temperature dropped but quickly returned inside. Bam Bam, the grizzly bear, slept through the entire eclipse but came out of his den as soon as it was over. Lastly, most black bears became more active during the eclipse. Scientists have also observed in the wild and explain that the bears become confused, rushing to gather resources as they think nightfall is approaching. 

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience to observe the animals at the Refuge during the eclipse at 98.5% totality. While the animal reactions did not seem as predictable as their wild counterparts, the experience reminds us of the importance of keeping wildlife wild. For over 31 years, our mission has been to rescue wild animals enslaved by the exotic pet trade and private ownership and to provide them with a second chance at life. Through your continuous support, we will continue to achieve our mission for generations to come.



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