Using Wildlife Fright Distances to Inform Trail Planning

Sponsored by NY State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. This presentation will focus on minimizing the negative effects on wildlife in a recreational setting.

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Event Details

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July 01, 2021

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (Mountain Time)
12:00 PM to 01:00 PM (Central Time)
01:00 PM to 02:00 PM (Eastern Time)


FREE for members
FREE for nonmembers

Learning Credit Cost: FREE


Closed Captioning is available for this webinar.
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Webinar Sponsors

This webinar is free to the public, thanks to a generous sponsorship from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), and the Federal Highway Administration.


Webinar Outline

Metro, the regional government in Portland, Oregon owns around 18,000 acres of natural areas, mostly in large habitat patches around the edges of the urban region. Several years ago, based on public feedback, Metro considered adding mountain biking and equestrian trails in addition to the usual hiking trails. We needed information about the differential effects of hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians to provide a great visitor’s experience while minimizing negative effects on wildlife. The presenter surveyed the scientific literature pertaining to the effects of hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders on trails, habitat, and wildlife to help inform the work of Metro’s parks and trails planners. This presentation will focus on minimizing the negative effects on wildlife in a recreational setting.

The presenter summarized information on wildlife “fright distances” to determine which types of animals may be most vulnerable to human disturbance in various recreational settings. The preponderance of the evidence suggests that effects on wildlife differ by recreational user group. Typically, wildlife were least frightened around horse riders, more frightened by hikers, and even more so by faster-moving mountain bikers and joggers. Dogs, which are descended from wolves and look and smell like predators to wildlife, proved most disturbing of all, and worse when dogs were off-leash.

Trails planners can selectively use fright distances to reduce negative effects in different settings and for difference species or species groups. For example, migrating ducks are more disturbance-sensitive than resident ducks. When building a trail near a wetland supporting migratory ducks, a trail planner may want to place the trail further from the wetland compared to the distance needed for non-migratory waterfowl.

The presenter had created this white paper on the subject: Turn to pages 91 and 92 for fright distances associated with wildlife under various scenarios of human disturbance.

Following the presentations, the panelists will respond to questions from webinar participants.

Learning Objectives:

  • What are wildlife fright distances?
  • What user group(s) are most frightening to animals? Why?
  • How can you use wildlife fright information in your work?


This webinar qualifies as a Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) course (via LA CES).

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Webinar Partners


Lori Hennings, Senior Natural Resource Scientist, Oregon Metro Regional Government
Portland, OR

Lori Hennings is a senior natural resource scientist for Metro, the regional government in the Portland, Oregon area. For the past 20 years she has helped plan and care for the 17,000+ acres of natural areas Metro tends on behalf of the public. She has a strong interest in integrating conservation across spatial scales. Lori helps coordinate two large work groups, the Oak Prairie Work Group and the Regional Habitat Connectivity Work Group, and keeps abreast of the scientific literature to inform Metro’s work. She received a M.Sc. in Wildlife Science/Forest Science from OSU, and a B.Sc. in Biology from Portland State University.


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3,217 views • posted 05/25/2021