Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Listening to the “Soundscape” of Wilderness

November 22, 2011, 11:05 am

Tim Mullet, a biological technician at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is gathering data to map a soundscape of the refuge. Credit: Tim Mullet/USFWSWhy does Tim Mullet plan to collect moose poop for a two–year study of noise levels on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska? Because bagging moose pellets is safer and easier than taking blood samples from wild horned animals weighing half a ton and up.

Mullet, a biological technician at Kenai Refuge and a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will test the moose poop for levels of glucocorticoids—hormones that are indicators of animal stress. Chronic high levels of these hormones can lower wildlife densities and displace animals from preferred habitat. Mullet hopes to find out whether exposure to human–made noise causes such stress.

One source of human-made noise is snowmobiles. Snowmobile use is permitted on the refuge under the provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), especially for hunting and fishing, even in wilderness areas.

Noise from human activity is penetrating deeper into Kenai Refuge’s 1.3 million acres of wilderness, and growing recreational use of snowmobiles has sparked some visitor complaints, says John Morton, supervisory wildlife biologist at the refuge for the past decade. The area also absorbs noise from Sterling Highway, which passes through the refuge on the Kenai Peninsula about three hours south of Anchorage.

Read more at fws.gov.

Image: Tim Mullet, a biological technician at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is gathering data to map a soundscape of the refuge. Credit: Tim Mullet/USFWS