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Fright or Flight? Behavioural Responses of Kangaroos to Drone-Based Monitoring

1
University of the Sunshine Coast, 91 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia
2
Global-Change Ecology Research Group, School of Science and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Drones 2019, 3(2), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones3020041
Received: 13 March 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 21 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract

Drones are often considered an unobtrusive method of monitoring terrestrial wildlife; however research into whether drones disturb wildlife is in its early stages. This research investigated the potential impacts of drone monitoring on a large terrestrial mammal, the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), in urban and peri-urban environments. We assessed the response of kangaroos to drone monitoring by analysing kangaroo behaviour prior to and during drone deployments using a linear modelling approach. We also explored factors that influenced kangaroo responses including drone altitude, site characteristics and kangaroo population dynamics and demographics. We showed that drones elicit a vigilance response, but that kangaroos rarely fled from the drone. However, kangaroos were most likely to flee from a drone flown at an altitude of 30 m. This study suggests that drone altitude is a key consideration for minimising disturbance of large terrestrial mammals and that drone flights at an altitude of 60–100 m above ground level will minimise behavioural impacts. It also highlights the need for more research to assess the level of intrusion and other impacts that drone surveys have on the behaviour of wildlife and the accuracy of the data produced. View Full-Text
Keywords: vigilance; behavioural response; anthropogenic disturbance; UAV; UAS; eastern grey kangaroo; wildlife survey vigilance; behavioural response; anthropogenic disturbance; UAV; UAS; eastern grey kangaroo; wildlife survey
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Brunton, E.; Bolin, J.; Leon, J.; Burnett, S. Fright or Flight? Behavioural Responses of Kangaroos to Drone-Based Monitoring. Drones 2019, 3, 41.

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