MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Can storm fronts affect the behavior of animals?

Date: Sun Mar 21 17:35:34 1999
Posted By: Andrea Bixler, staff (postdoctoral associate), biology, UM-St. Louis
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 921302233.Zo

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 

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 

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