Pandemic triggers 64% increase in wildlife watching

People have been getting outdoors more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend represents a shift in people’s relationship with nature, say the authors of the new study.

People in the University of Vermont study – who ranged from stuck at home to stressed in essential worker jobs – reported significant increases in outdoor activity during COVID-19, especially among women.

Outdoor activities seeing the largest increases were watching wildlife (up 64%), gardening (57%), taking photos or doing other art in nature (54%), relaxing alone outside (58%), and making their masked and distanced way on walks (70%), according to a statement.

“These data are like a treasure chest of the pandemic moment: a record of how people have been thinking about their relationship with the rest of the world in a time of great upheaval,” says Rachelle Gould of the University of Vermont, the study’s senior author.

Women increased their nature use in more ways than men. Across the six most common nature activities in the study, women were 1.7 (gardening) to 2.9 (walking) times more likely to report increasing their engagement than men.

Of the 15 outdoor activities studied, some went down in frequency – including camping – while other activities stayed relatively constant, including biking, boating, and fishing.

Photo: JLS Photography – Alaska/ Flickr Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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