Humans truly don't give animals enough credit. While we might think of them as simple creatures who aren't as smart as us, the truth is they're super intelligent. So much so, they're outsmarting us at our own games.
Take, for example, lady elk. A new study shows the older female elk get, the wiser they get. Specifically, they have learned how to avoid being killed by hunters because they know what kind of weapons they're carrying. Older female elk learn to spot the signs of hunters and use their natural abilities to avoid being killed. This new development shocked scientists, but it isn't really all that surprising. Animals have the ability to learn everything from language to math, and even human behavior. So, go on doing you, lady elk.
Elk Learn From Experiences And From Human Behavior
Scientists from the University of Alberta started tracking female elk to see how hunting was affecting their behavior. For six years, they studied their movements and habits, and found that, during hunting season, female elk were more cautious. Specifically, the older the females got, the more they learned the behaviors of hunters and changed their own behavior accordingly.
For example, during hunting season, they knew to avoid trails and roads. They also moved around less, and traveled through more densely wooded areas where they couldn't be seen as well.
They Can Also Tell The Difference Between Guns And Bows
What's even more astonishing is the fact female elk can tell the difference between what weapons hunters are using. During bow season, they travel in rough terrain, which makes it harder for hunters to successfully kill them. During rifle season, they avoid areas populated by humans, specifically roads. Henrik Thurfjell, an ecologist at the University of Alberta, said hunters often slow down on the road to see whether they can spot any elk – an indication they're in a good hunting spot – and elk know that. In response, they avoid trails and roads.
This Behavior Might Really Help Farmers
Knowing what they know about elk behavior now, scientists are trying to use it to their advantage. Specifically, for farmers. Elk can devastate crops – especially if it's a big herd. But scientists theorize if they start controlled hunting near farms, elk will learn that those areas are places to avoid.
"Cooperation between hunters and landowners could get good results for everyone, including the elk," Thurfjell said.