|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Yes, storm fronts can affect the behavior of animals. Obviously, bad weather can simply cause animals to hide out temporarily, but the effects can also be more complicated than that. For example, a nearby storm may provide just the right conditions to allow birds, bats or insects to fly higher or farther: it is known that the numbers of migrating birds increase substantially when the wind is blowing in the direction the birds are flying and there is no precipitation. For animals that rely on their sense of smell to find food and other necessities (this would include most mammals), storm fronts could cause major problems. Storm fronts may change the temperature, wind and barometric pressure of the environment, and all of these factors can change how odors are carried on the wind. As a result, animal behavior may change because it is easier or more difficult to find food. There is anecdotal support for this from studies of skunks. Skunks rely on odors to find food (and each other, as you might guess), and trap success goes down with decreasing barometric pressure and decreasing temperature. [Trap success refers to the proportion of traps (these are live traps, that don't harm the animals) set that are successful in catching an animal. It is a good indirect measure of how active the animals are, because if there are more animals moving around a lot, it is more likely that some of them will be trapped.] If barometric pressure and temperature affect skunk behavior, you could expect it to influence the behavior of many other animals that find food by smell, like weasels, raccoons and domestic or wild cats and dogs. There are so many different animals, behaving in so many different ways, and so many variables that are influenced by storm conditions that it is difficult to give a really complete answer to your question. I hope I've at least given you a glimpse of different ways weather might cause its effects.
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