Animal movements occurring during COVID-19 lockdown were predicted by connectivity models

Andrea Corradini, Wibke Peters, Luca Pedrotti, Mark Hebblewhite, Natalia Bragalanti, Clara Tattoni, Marco Ciolli, Francesca Cagnacci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent events related to the measures taken to control the spread of the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) reduced human mobility (i.e. anthropause), potentially opening connectivity opportunities for wildlife populations. In the Italian Alps, brown bears have recovered after reintroduction within a complex anthropogenic matrix, but failed to establish a metapopulation due to reduced connectivity and human disturbance (i.e. infrastructure, land use, and human mobility). Previous work from Peters et al. (2015, Biol. Cons. 186, 123–133) predicted the main corridors and suitable hot spots for road network crossing for this population across all major roads and settlement zones, to link most suitable habitats. Bears used the identified hot spots for road network crossing over the years, but major barriers such as main motor roads were not overcome, possibly due to functional anthropogenic disturbance, specifically human mobility. By analyzing 404 bear occurrences reported to local authorities (as bear-related complaints) collected between 2016 and 2020 (March 9th - May 18th), hence including the COVID-19 related lockdown, we tested the effect of human presence on brown bears' use of space and hot spots for road network crossing. Animals occupied human-dominated spaces and approached hot spots for crossing at a higher rate during the lockdown than in previous years, suggesting that connectivity temporarily increased with reduced human mobility for this population. As a result of their increased use of hot spots, bears expanded their use of suitable areas beyond the population core area. Movement of animals across structural barriers such as roads and human settlements may therefore occur in absence of active disturbance. We also showed the value of predictive models to identify hot spots for animal barrier crossing, the knowledge of which is critical when implementing management solutions to enhance connectivity. Understanding the factors that influence immigration and emigration across metapopulations of large mammals, particularly carnivores that may compete indirectly with humans for space or directly as super-predators, is critical to ensure the long-term viability of conservation efforts for their persistence. We argue that dynamic factors such as human mobility may play a larger role than previously recognized.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01895
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Anthropause
  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Connectivity
  • Human mobility
  • Ursus arctos
  • Wildlife road crossing


Dive into the research topics of 'Animal movements occurring during COVID-19 lockdown were predicted by connectivity models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this